'Dustpan Odyssey' – Compagnie Philippe Genty | Edinburgh 2013
There are surprises in store for anyone expecting the epic spectacle that has characterised recent Philippe Genty visits to the UK. In ‘Dustpan Odyssey’ the action almost all takes place on a tabletop and is created mostly from found objects, in a world conjured up by three clown-esque performers.
There is a corkscrew Ulysses, all at sea in his dustpan ship with his colourful chocolate-box crew, visiting islands of scissors, soap and cabbages. The performers interrupt proceedings squabbling over who gets to wear the colander (and thus play Ulysses), who gets to tell which bits of the story, and who has to clean up the messes they regularly make. Everything is freely and imaginatively transformational.
Another surprise is the delirious stream of outrageous English puns that run through the storytelling. This is sometimes tied to the visual action – there is, for example, a literal storm in a teacup – and sometimes just for their own pleasures. Homer's story is played very straight with no big narrative surprises, allowing the focus to be on the witty telling. Penelope, carved in ice, waits melting at stage right for the return of her hero (“Your dinner is cold and so am I”).
At its best the show combines the simple yet deep magic of object play, full of surprises that are nevertheless rooted in storytelling and the innate nature of the performing objects, with generous and slick verbal and physical clowning.
However there are some sections that are more like genuine child’s play, with unselfconscious riffing, more inward play between the performers and much less narrative shaping – more meandering than conjuring. This is charming but occasionally less than compelling, and the energy drops dangerously in these sections and, at times, between the episodes.
Nevertheless the show is hugely entertaining and very much worth seeing when it returns for the Suspense Festival in London at the beginning of November.
Compagnie Phillipe Genty