Mobile Navigation

An odyssey like no other: The process of staging Homer's epic poem

Manu Moreau, Class of 2018, East Campus
UWCSEA East High School Drama production The Odyssey 2018

When I first started working on this project I was full of excitement, with not a clue of the journey that I would eventually go on. Never had I imagined just how much organisation as well as leadership skills would be necessary.

When we first approached our script of The Odyssey, adapted by Hattie Naylor, it was hard to connect with many of the contemporary aspects that Naylor had incorporated into the epic Greek poem. We were unable to conceptualise ideas like having suitors playing football, but at the same time we could not place the piece in Greece and have the cast wear togas. Instead we looked closer to home for inspiration; living in Asia we are surrounded by an amazing variety of both contemporary and traditional Asian theatres. Director and Drama teacher Anna Parr was interested in looking at Japanese theatre as inspiration. When we looked at Japanese history, culture and theatre, we were able to draw parallels with The Odyssey. The grotesque elements, like the suitors, we wanted to physicalise with Japanese Butoh Theatre, while the beautiful and gentler aspects we explored through Kabuki.

From this we created our concept, our intention. It is important to note that our piece was not set in Japan. We took these two styles of theatre, as well as aspects of other Japanese theatre conventions, and used them in our design, acting and approach to devising. This was also important to keep to a constant theme and not to involve too many different styles. Attempting to stay true to Homer’s world of sea creatures, mythological monsters, as well as Ithaca and Troy.

One of my favourite scenes is Scene 7, which we created very early on in the rehearsal process. We knew we always wanted to create a large ensemble piece (one of the reasons we ended up with such a large cast). Having a large ensemble allowed us to give the students the ability to create a piece which was their own. I absolutely loved exploring the ways in which a large group of people can come together as one unit to communicate something on a stage. During the creation of Scene 7 the cast split into groups, each responsible for creating a movement piece that told a part of the larger story. The reason that I love the final product of this exploration, is that it allowed the entire ensemble to work together to physicalise what the audience imagines in their heads.

The fact that the cast was able to take such a big role and responsibility in directing these movement pieces themselves and constructing this scene, is something that I really enjoyed as a director. I believe theatre, much like ideas, is created through the merging together of opposing thoughts and opinions; it is inherently an ensemble and group activity. I believe now that the role of the director should be to guide and challenge and question, but also inspire and motivate so as to encourage a thoughtful and meaningful process.

Through this process I have learned what it means to be a director; I have always been passionate about theatre and about telling people what to do. Working on this production over the past year was an incredible journey, I learned so much about theatre, about productions, about sound and lighting and directing and most importantly about the people I have worked with so closely.

One of the things I enjoyed most was working backstage on the design elements, including sitting down with professional set designers, working out costumes, and learning how sound and lighting work. Being able to work with these people, talk to them and observe how they create and design, I gained a small insight into how the world of professional theatre operates. I now believe theatre is something that will always be a part of me and that I will always be a part of.

  • East Campus
  • Holistic Learning Programme
  • Opinion