The Arts

Stratford Festival 2007 – Derek Walcott’s The Odyssey

by Paula Citron

Nobel Prize winners pen weighty stuff. Caribbean poet Derek Walcott is no exception. His 1992 The Odyssey, based on his 1990 epic poem Omeros, is dense, oblique and elliptical. His language is a mix of colloquialisms and heightened poetic images.

Walcott has taken Homer’s Greek tale, now narrated by a blind blues singer, and has tried to make it relevant to modern times, most notably the Caribbean islands. Each of Odysseus’ adventures corresponds with a fact of history, like the Cyclops who is equated with a Hitler-like dictator.

Director Peter Hinton certainly understands how to mount epics, and he has a very good cast led by Nigel Shawn Williams as the anti-hero. The production is ambitious and admirable, but audiences have to work hard to catch Walcott’s illusions. I think I would rather have read the poem to savour Walcott’s language. As a play, words go by almost too quickly.

The Odyssey continues until Sept. 28.

From the Stratford Festival’s Studio Theatre, I’m Paula Citron, arts reviewer for CLASSICAL 96.3 FM.

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