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Join the Odyssey with The Pantaloons

PUBLISHED: 20:00 28 March 2019

It's not easy being a hero. The Odyssey, presented by The Pantaloons is in Suffolk and Norfolk in April and May. Picture: The Pantaloons

It's not easy being a hero. The Odyssey, presented by The Pantaloons is in Suffolk and Norfolk in April and May. Picture: The Pantaloons

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An innovative touring theatre company is bringing Homer's Odyssey to Suffolk and Norfolk this spring

Homer's epic The Odyssey brought to the region in verse, by The Pantaloons. Picture: The PantaloonsHomer's epic The Odyssey brought to the region in verse, by The Pantaloons. Picture: The Pantaloons

A hilarious new verse adaptation of The Odyssey with live music and the Pantaloons Theatre Company’s unique and inimitable brand of buffoonery is coming to venues in Suffolk and Norfolk in April and May.

The company’s producer, co-writer and co-artistic director is Mark Hayward. Now based in Essex, near Saffron Walden, Mark was born and bred in Suffolk.

“I come from Ipswich, where I went to Northgate High School before going to university in Canterbury, Kent. It was there I met (Shakespeare scholar) Steve Purcell. Steve is now an assistant professor at the University of Warwick and together we have been adapting and directing the classics - including Shakespeare, Dickens and Austen - and our small casts of talented young professional actors have been touring the country with them for more than a decade.”

Mark says: “Our productions are always faithful to the text although we do inject our own, distinctive Pantaloons sense of humour and the odd contemporary reference.

The Pantaloons, Thje Canterbury Tales. Picture: The PantaloonsThe Pantaloons, Thje Canterbury Tales. Picture: The Pantaloons

“The Odyssey tells the story of Odysseus, a war hero, who has to struggle against the odds to get home to his wife; but to get back, he has to battle his way through grumpy gods, naughty nymphs, monocular monsters and over a hundred sleazy suitors.

“Throughout his quest he is clad in little more than an Ancient Greek robe that looks suspiciously like a bedsheet,” Mark says, leading one to strongly suspect it did indeed begin life as a bedsheet.

“We have a cast of just four actor-musicians playing an epic number of roles... requiring plenty of quick changes and (sometimes literally) larger-than-life characters.”

The company has a loyal fan base - the Fantaloons - many of whom have been going to the Pantaloons shows since they started out more than 10 years ago with its trademark audience interaction, slapstick and original live music.

Puck casts a spell on Hermia in The Pantaloons' A Midsummer Night's Dream. Picture: The PantaloonsPuck casts a spell on Hermia in The Pantaloons' A Midsummer Night's Dream. Picture: The Pantaloons

New for this production is the use of verse.

Mark says: “We characterise our work as post-modern folk theatre. “We take well-loved tales and give them a contemporary twist, making them accessible for new audiences and showing seasoned fans something that they perhaps had not seen in them before.”

The company has tackled classics such as The War of the Worlds, The Canterbury Tales, Pride and Prejudice, The Importance of Being Earnest, Bleak House and the Complete History of Britain as well as many Shakespeare plays.

This new adaptation of The Odyssey works as an introduction for those unfamiliar with the legendary story and as an exciting new approach for fans of Homer and ancient Greek mythology.

The Importance of Being Earnest. Picture: The PantaloonsThe Importance of Being Earnest. Picture: The Pantaloons

Giving a flavour of what you might expect, Mark adds: “There will be no jokes about pottery. They are not the way to urn respect.”

The 2019 season continues with a summer tour of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and an autumn tour of Shakespeare’s Othello.

• Odyssey dates include: April 14, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich (2pm and 7pm); May 1, Dereham Memorial Hall; May 3&4, Westacre Theatre, King’s Lynn; May 5, Dilham Village Hall, North Walsham. Book via thepantaloons.co.uk

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