This is a play that stays with you long after the final bow. It had such a depth of performance, such intensity that I am still processing the full extent of its impact.
The Oddity, from Out of Nowhere Theatre, is a fusion of the ancient Homer poem, The Odyssey, and a modern day story of Tilly, a girl who is coming to terms with the changes in her home life - her single parent mother has a new boyfriend moving in.
The focal point of the play is Tilly, passionately portrayed by Alice Proctor, we see her grasp on reality shift and change, like the waves of the sea - a sound effect that is used throughout the play, which is particularly efficacious. Her mental state could be seen as an emotional breakdown, or as a form of schizophrenia, or is it the echo of the ancient past seeping into present? These are all possible interpretations. Even the set echoes this melding with the intrusion of ancient Greek pillars and temple steps into a contemporary living room.
We are never allowed to rest into a linear storyline, although there is a thread of one that can be followed. Rather we have the ebb and flow from the original epic verse of Homer, with the use of the Greek chorus of voices from the actors live on stage and a recorded track (I especially liked it’s ethereal quality); to the modern fly-on-the-wall theatre style which is very familiar to a soap-opera viewing audience; to the monologues of Tilly directed out beyond the fourth wall. These create an oddness, fitting with the plays title, it also asks the questions about Tilly herself, she is an Oddity, a person that at times doesn’t fit in this present reality but you can’t help to care for her.
Alice, as Tilly, is ably supported by Oliver Devoti and Maria Major, who play the other characters that Tilly engages with as a child at home and as an adult who has been ‘released into the community’. Oliver and Maria demonstrated their ability to transform themselves from one character to another with simple costume adjustments, accents and mannerisms - at times so effectively that I had to remind myself that this was a only cast of three. Together they created a piece that was truly engaging and challenging. Their generosity to each other was apparent - each actor drew out a great performance from another; the 80 minute run of this one act play flew by.
From reading the program, I can see that The Oddity started with the creator Rose van Leyenhorst but became a work of collaboration with director Chris Hill, from the very early stages. It was developed further through actors workshops until it emerged as the play I witnessed tonight. This developmental stages have paid dividends, I was completed absorbed by it, every component part worked brilliantly from the technical to the performances themselves. As I said, at the beginning of this review, I am still working through the emotional and intellectual resonance of this excellent piece of theatre. Congratulations to everyone who was involved and thank you for a most enjoyable evening.
Reviewer: Alan Harbottle
Reviewed: 18th May 2016