Home » London Theatre Reviews » ‘Punkt Presents Penelope at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre | Review

‘Punkt Presents Penelope at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre | Review

'Punkt Presents PenelopeSometimes retelling a known story from the perspective of a minor character (or two) can be quite revelatory. Consider, for instance, Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which is almost as long as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and about as absurdist as ‘Punkt Presents Penelope, this rather brief play that tries to tell Homer’s Odyssey from the perspective of Penelope, the wife of war hero Odysseus.

There’s no escaping that there isn’t very much to tell: in the first few minutes of the show, members of the cast (Abigail Hirsch, Aida Rocci, Antonia Georgieva, Oliver McFadden and Talia Kracauer) arrive, one by one, and exchange pleasantries. One of them has started dreaming in Russian, but neither this nor any of the other random topics of conversation, are explored any further, which puts the whole opening scene in danger of being irrelevant and superfluous. For instance, does anybody else in the cast dream in another language? Or, like your reviewer, do they simply not remember their dreams?

Music with lyrics continues playing during this opening dialogue, so inevitably some lines were missed. Later on, someone (no cast list was provided at the performance I attended, so who played whom is anyone’s guess) starts reading the last few pages of James Joyce’s Ulysses (Ulysses being the Roman equivalent of Odysseus) out loud. But it was done in such a nonchalant tone that it was almost completely devoid of the passion the selected section of text possesses. Penelope was, of course, faithful to Odysseus / Ulysses throughout his twenty or so years away on the battlefields.

There are interpretive movements (one could hardly call staring down at one’s fingernails or touching one’s heels ‘interpretive dance’) and I found the transformation of the stage as the cast set about setting up and putting props and set in place more than a little dull. It simply took too long, as did a song and dance number towards the end of the performance. I couldn’t recognise the tune, but it sounded like something that could accompany an exercise routine – and while there was some initial pleasure in it when it first got going, it dragged on for longer than it should have done. Not every line of dialogue was spoken live, and some recordings were distorted, such that it was not always easy to decipher what was being said.

The production has some redeeming features, most notably the overcoming of a perennial problem in pub theatre shows: sightlines, especially when characters are seated or even lying down in a performance space level with the front row (and in some pub theatres, every row). The use of a camera and projector allowed for more focused and close up action. But overall, it was all rather disjointed, and I don’t think I came away having learnt anything new about Penelope that couldn’t reasonably have been gleaned from elsewhere. There’s some creativity on display when some puppetry goes on behind large white sheeting. Whilst this production is evidently a team effort, it could do with a little more narrative focus.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

When Odysseus (famous for his appearances in the Odyssey, Joyce’s Ulysses, and several blockbuster movies)
goes to war, Penelope sits at home and weaves for twenty years. Little is known of that time – there’s something about a squadron of suitors – but now ‘Punkt comes along to reveal what the loneliest woman in Classical history dreamed about.

Whimsical, witty, and irreverent, ’Punkt Presents Penelope is a mix of classical and popular, a blend of perspectives, and a cocktail of mediums all in pursuit of an unexpectedly fun night at the theatre.

WRITTEN BY: ‘Punkt Collective
DIRECTED BY: ‘Punkt Collective

OTHER CREATIVES: ‘Punkt Collective Members: Antonia Georgieva, Talia Kracauer, Aida Rocci, Abigail Hirsch, Oliver McFadden. Devised in Collaboration with: Faezah ZulkiflI, Rachel Copel, Isabella Routley

RUNNING TIME: 60 Mins (No Interval)
TWITTER: @punktcollective
Booking to 24th March 2020


Scroll to Top