Ilium and Ithaka: Plays of Love and War

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Ilium and Ithaka: Plays of Love and War
© Richard Davenport Plays of Love & War

'When Nobody Returns' is a poignant reimagining of a Greek myth for today's Middle East

A market just off Portobello Road might seem like an unlikely place to stage Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’, but that's the setting for this modern interpretation of the epic poem.

‘When Nobody Returns’ is part of ‘Plays of Love and War’, a two-part series inspired by the works of Homer, and a co-production between London-based theatre company Border Crossings and the Palestinian ASHTAR Theatre company.

The action mostly takes place on two slanted stages, which are at an angle between the audience, immersing us in the story. The play is a condensed version of ‘The Odyssey’, set in war-torn Palestine. Having left to fight in the Trojan War twenty years before, Odysseus has yet to return to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telémakhos, who continue to wait for him in their hometown Ithaka, which has been occupied by suitors who vie for Penelope’s affections, while essentially keeping her a prisoner in her own home. Odysseus’ absence puts a constant strain on their lives.

When classic works are given the modern interpretation treatment, it can feel a bit forced, but this production manages to use this timeless story as a way to highlight timely events. Okay, the one-eyed cyclops character not so much. But with conflict in the Middle East and the ongoing refugee crisis never far from the headlines, ‘When Nobody Returns’ is a poignant reminder of how war can tear a family apart. 

By: Isabelle Aron

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