Review: Ithaca (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

Currently streaming on the Fringe Player platform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Ithaca is a one-person stage to screen version of The Odyssey. The character we meet is ‘Nobody’, a woman who vaguely represents Odysseus. She finds herself in a place which is strange, with no sense of who she is or when she got there.

This is an accomplished digital production which utilises camera tricks to allow writer and performer Phoebe Angeni to play or voice multiple characters while exploring modern issues around body image, bullying, mental health and chronic illness. Angeni has taken both the basis themes from Homer’s classic and her own personal experiences (she is estranged from her father due to his harassment of her, has experienced issues with immigration, and lives with anxiety and depression).

Ithaca is a deeply experimental piece which really explores what is possible in the online medium, pulling out themes relating to fat shaming/wellness, overbearing parents, officious red tape, and much more through voiceovers, movement, film effects, and music. It is small screen drama on a large scale, bringing a variety of creative ideas together to move forward the story of Nobody.

Promotional image for Ithaca

The effect is sometimes disturbing, as if we are observing a very private moment but are unable to turn away. The lighting is sometimes harsh, sometimes warm and womb-like, sometimes flashing and challenging. Nobody’s quest to get home, “wherever home is” hints at the plight of migrants trying to reach a land where they can settle, of those whose visas end, leaving them “without rights”, or the “no place like home” myths of popular fiction.

Angeni has created (she also directed, filmed and edited the show) a complex work in which she throws herself into an exhausting performance, physically and emotionally. You don’t have to know the original book to follow this show, as she has really made it relevant to modern feminism, but Ithaca can definitely count itself as a claimant to one of the strongest digital fringe shows this year.

Fringe rating: *****

You can stream Ithaca at the Edinburgh Fringe online until 30 August – book here.