The Compagnie Philippe Genty needs no introduction. So its presence at the Festival Off d’Avignon was a delight, even a surprise considering the size of its production. The actors-manipulators Yoanelle Stratman, Hernan Bonet and Antoine Malfettes performed a small format piece based on Homer’s Odyssey: a Ulysses corkscrew leads his bombon and chocolate men to Ithaca, sailing a boat made with a broom and a dustpan. The play is a delicious entertainment —not banal.
‘La Pelle du Large’ is the new title of the famous travel from Troy to Ithaca, the adventures and the encounters with the cyclop Polyfem —a barrel—, Kirke, the artichoke Calypso and the sirens. Both for the objects and the interpretation of the actors, this classic story becomes absolutely contemporary. Ulysses and all his men are migrants who can find both external and inner difficulties on the way home —monsters and oblivion. And this is the point of the journey: one knows how he is at the beginning of the travel but never knows it will change him along the way.
The staging is signed by Philippe Genty. He got to concentrate in 30 minutes the story of 20 years in the life of Ulysses, as it is a resounding bet on small format. The play has the only aim to entertain, to tell a well-known story that is both unique and able to be shared by any traveler. Reaching such a high level of synthesis and doing it with humour are also thanks to the common objects chosen to play the characters of the ‘Odyssey’, the quality of the work of the three actors in scene and the co-director Mary Underwood.
The ‘Odyssey’ is also interpreted with a lot of freedom. So little objects become more alive and allows the actors switch into a quite surprising end: Ulysses is all the time a corkscrew, but after seven years with the nymph Calypso something has changed in him and is no longer recognizable, so the Company smartly change him into a soap. This is the way he gets back to Ithaca and how nobody knows him, not even Penelope. But as she is also a bottle of soap, they can have their happy end together taking a bath in a basin of water.
‘La Pelle du Large’ was represented during the Festival right after ‘Une Odysée’, by the Irina Brook Company. Performed by four actors, Brook focused on another topics: youth, friendship and learning, and they did it in 60 minutes in a such attractive staging, using a lot of physical theatre resources instead of objects.
Two different versions of one same story, two contemporary readings on Western culture, both funny and light, performed by two renamed companies using different languages at the Théatre des Carmes André Benedetto, in Avignon —a top quality theatre pack.