THE ODYSSEY You’ve come a long way, baby

After the success of The Iliad-inspired Troy Story, Black Martini Productions are back at Fringe this year to take on another of Homer’s colossal stories. The Odyssey: The Epic Tale of Odysseus on his Super Long Journey Home is set be a fresh take on Greek epic The Odyssey, hitting Girls School from Wednesday, January 19 to Sunday, January 23. KWANWOO HAN caught up with the founder of Black Martini Productions Thomas Dimmick to find out why he can’t wait to bring another of Homer’s epics to Fringe World 2022.

Congrats on bringing your show The Odyssey to Fringe 2022! What inspired this version of The Odyssey and how long has it been in the works for?

Thank you! This show has been worked on throughout all of 2021, but has been in the pipeline since the first incarnation of Troy Story back in 2018. When I was very little, my dad made a deal with me that if I read The Iliad and The Odyssey, he would give me $50 for each book. However, I would have only been about eight or nine at the time, and had very little interest in reading either book. But I never forgot the deal.

So a number of years ago I decided to give The Iliad a read and I thought it was fantastic, but also great material for a play. I developed that show for a number of years, but then late in 2020 I got a copy of The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson which is such a fantastic version that it inspired me to adapt it into the next show.

And how does this show compare to what you and your team have done before, such as Troy Story?

Stylistically this is similar to Troy Story. It is a mish mash of the random elements of pop culture that live rent free in my brain combined with a love and passion for Greek mythology and stories. However, we are also telling this story in a different manner. The Iliad is an epic tale with many different characters taking focus as the story progresses, and so we followed the overall structure quite closely, using each chapter as a guideline for the play. With The Odyssey, there is more of a focus on Odysseus and a handful of other individuals, and so it will have a different flavour to it. Plus a lot of cardboard.

Who else has been part of bringing this to life on stage and what have they brought to the production?

Along with me I have Erin Craddock, Grace Edwards and Hock Edwards (last names unrelated). Our little group have worked together twice now on productions of Troy Story in 2020 when the show was relaunched from its 2018 debut as Condensed Literature: The Iliad and then again in 2021 when we just had so much fun with it, that we wanted to go again.

This now being our third production together, we have developed a good method of working with each other and are able to bring different realms of experience to the table. We all have varying levels of knowledge of The Odyssey which means we have different perspectives on understanding the tale and what needs to be clarified, but we also bring different comedic stylings and ideas to rehearsals. So while we might have one joke at the beginning, as we each give it a different spin, we are able to find the best way to get it across to the audience.

You must have done some research on Homer and The Odyssey to bring this together. What was the most surprising thing you learnt in that process?

My favourite thing about The Odyssey, and also The Iliad, is that the story is immediately engaging, arguably more so with The Odyssey. This is a story that is thousands of years old, but the characters feel as though they could be alive today and the struggles they deal with are real. No one is perfect in these stories and you get to see both the high and low lights of these characters.

It is also interesting when you look at the ways in which translators approach the text. The reason why I wanted to do this after reading the translation by Emily Wilson, is that majority of the time, it has been translated by a male translator. My goal with bringing The Odyssey and Troy Story to the stage is to provide a different perspective, so starting with a text that has a different perspective as well really helps to bring new ideas to it.

The Odyssey is one of the oldest tales going around, but what’s something new you hope audiences will take from this recreation of the story?

I hope that audiences walk away wanting to know more. My goal is to have people become enthused with the story, realise how accessible it is and then go out to read more themselves. While it is a fun adaptation, we aren’t able to fit every detail of the story into one hour, so there are often some really great parts of the story we cannot fit in.

And how about you? What are you looking forward to most for when this show opens?

I am always curious to know to know how many of the pop culture references people get in the show. We have many that are obvious, and we really play into, but then there are ones that are just quick sly mentions. And then there are ones that aren’t really a part of pop culture, but just the media that I grew up on and make me laugh. And then I am also looking forward to seeing so many other shows! We open on the first day of Fringe, so when we open, that means so does everyone else and cannot wait to see what people have created.

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