Theatre Review: Penelope

Four suitors vie for the heart of a beautiful woman in PENELOPE - Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s weird and wonderful modern take on Homer - at the Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage.

IRISH playwright Enda Walsh brings to us another tale of weird and wonderful characters lost in a myth of their own making.

Four ridiculous men are at the bottom of a drained swimming pool in the sweltering summer heat, where they appear to have been for a long time now.

Drinking and participating in absurd conversations, they while away their days, awaiting their death and fighting for an unwinnable love of a beautiful woman. It transpires that they are the last four survivors of Odysseus’ wife Penelope’s hunt for a husband. It’s a contemporary slant on the Homer tale and one with numerous changes.

The four men muse over life. There is the self-styled mighty Quinn in his tiny Speedos and slowly growing pot belly, the silent Burns who can but stare at a blank wall, the drug addled Fitz and the literary Dunne wearing a tiger skin dressing gown. They wait for Penelope to arrive to watch them through the CCTV where they will take turns to vie for her affections. If one of them does not win her love, they will all die on Odysseus’ return.


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Quinn performs an unbelievably fast quick-change routine of different characters to impress Penelope, Dunne goes for flowery speeches and Fitz tries plain old-fashioned honesty.

There is some fantastic acting and it is doubtless that Walsh is a fine wordsmith. However the play feels a little unbalanced and there is an uneven distribution of innuendo and serious thoughts, which creates something of a jumble.

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A unique and thought provoking play, this is nothing if not original.

* Showing at Hampstead Theatre in Eton Avenue, NW3, until Saturday, March 5.

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