Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Odyssey by Nina Segal at the Unicorn Theatre | Review

The Odyssey by Nina Segal at the Unicorn Theatre | Review

There are surprisingly few theatrical productions that target eight to 13-year-olds but Nina Segal’s The Odyssey: It’s a Really, Really Long Journey finds the sweet spot of this audience brilliantly. The production, directed by Jennifer Tang, takes us on a tour of Homer’s epic poem from the point of view of Odysseus and Penelope’s son, Telemachus (Shaka Kalokah) who sets off in his father’s wake and experiences an odyssey of his own. Segal’s book and song lyrics provide late primary/early secondary school kids with a delightfully entertaining taste of the 2500-year-old tale – retaining the integrity and power of the story with neither excessive complexity nor oversimplification. Frankly, many classical adaptations (regardless of target audience) fail to achieve such a balance, but Segal’s text and Tang’s directorial skill surmount such challenges handsomely.

The Odyssey: Cerys Marie Burton, Shaka Kalokoh, Kimmy Edwards, Cash Holland.Photo: Manuel Harlan.
The Odyssey: Cerys Marie Burton, Shaka Kalokoh, Kimmy Edwards, Cash Holland. Photo: Manuel Harlan.

The multi-rolling Muses (Cerys Marie Burton and Kimmy Edwards) not only set out the plot with just the right level of exposition for a younger audience but also provide pacey continuity in both prose and song – contributing to show-stopping musical numbers (music and arrangement by Naomi Hammerton) that are anchored by the masterful voices of Cash Holland (Penelope) and Shaka Kalokah (Telemachus). The entire creative team has come together to inspire with this production that never patronises but also leaves no one behind.

Rosie Elnile’s costumes are both practical and lush; serving to make us forget only four actors are delivering a rich enactment of the 565-nautical-mile journey from Troy to Ithaca (that took Telemachus’ dad a decade to complete). Virginie Taylor’s video and projection design is likewise successfully functional (marking locations or key mythical encounters) as well as mesmerising as it takes us into the tempestuous straits between Scylla and Charybdis or the psychedelic sensations of lotus-eating.

Playwright Segal also succeeds in deftly questioning the typical characterisation of Circe as a malevolent witch (or ‘enchantress’ as she prefers) without ladling on a thick or self-consciously worthy portion of ‘re-imagining’. With craft, she tells a story that has confidence in its intrinsic power and brings it to a tween/teen audience with neither condescension nor pretension. This show is not school – it will cause kids to smile and tap their toes – but also happens to remind the whole family why the classics are called classics. With the most expensive adult seat in the house at just over £20, The Odyssey is excellent value this Easter and one of the best entertainment options you could pick this spring.

5 Star Rating

Review by Mary Beer

Telemachus was just a baby when his dad Odysseus left to fight in the Trojan War. Now he’s almost grown he sets off on a quest to find him, even if his mum is not convinced. Luckily he has the muses – and some great tunes – to guide him on his heroic journey.

This Easter, join Telemachus on an epic adventure through stormy seas and strange lands, filled with mystical creatures, dangerous monsters and enchanting sirens – plus two talking sheep – and discover what really makes a true hero.

With an unforgettable 60s soul and pop-inspired score by Naomi Hammerton, this fun, musical re-telling of Homer’s classic story is adapted by Nina Segal and directed by Jennifer Tang.

Written by Nina Segal
Lyrics by Nina Segal
Music and arrangements by Naomi Hammerton
Directed by Jennifer Tang
Set and Costume Design by Rosie Elnile
Choreography and Movement Direction by Chi-San Howard
Lighting Design by Jessica Hung Han Yun
Sound Design by Ellie Isherwood
VIdeo and Projection Design by Virginie Taylor
Casting Direction by Chloe Blake

SHAKA KALOKOH – Telemachus

A Unicorn Production

Sun 17 Mar – Sun 21 Apr 2024

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  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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