One of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures in the festive theatre calendar is the show from Charles Court Opera, and this year they are moving into the West End with a season at Jermyn Street Theatre of Odyssey: a Heroic Pantomime.
“After his monumental victory at the Trojan War, Odysseus begins the epic journey home to Ithaca and his wife, Penelope. But Poseidon has other plans… So begins this madcap retelling of the greatest story ever told. Join a host of fantastical characters on a mythical, musical (and downright ridiculous) journey as they battle through sirens and a cyclops. Prepare yourself for a boatload of riotous humour – with apologies to Homer!”
We caught up with the artistic director of Charles Court Opera, John Savournin, who co-writes and directs the show, to find out more about this year’s production, which runs from 23 Nov-31 Dec.
It’s panto time, and Odyssey is offering something a little bit different. Why should audiences come along?
Because you won’t have seen a panto like it. If you’re looking for something that’s a bit left-field, and subverts the idea of panto to make a musical comedy show that’s packed with odd ball humour and fantastically sung songs, then our ‘alternative’ pantos are just for you.
Charles Court Opera can always be relied upon for a fabulous and fun musical comedy experience. What’s the best thing about creating a show like this?
That there are no limits to what creativity we can throw at it. We take the rules of panto and rewrite them, while still giving our audiences lots of what you would expect, such as audience participation. It’s clever and witty, but ridiculous. Perhaps the best thing is getting to roar with laughter every day in rehearsals – sometimes, so much it hurts!! There are family and adult performances, if you want something a little bit naughty.
This year there’s quite a few adult pantos in London. Do you think this is now a permanent trend?
People love our Adults only performances because it’s a chance to come and be a big kid, who knows just what the double entendres are about. But then we push the boat way out and get really blue with the jokes. There are no phallic headdresses though – nothing too crass. It’s classily naughty (well, most of the time).
Odyssey has an all-female cast playing multiple roles – was this a conscious choice from the start?
The Odyssey is a very male heavy story, and we wanted to find a way to subvert that, for sure, to appeal to new audiences. And there’s something quite thrilling in hearing them all sing in close harmony together, as they all have lower voices, too, so it allows for some really crunchy harmony.
Coming to Jermyn Street brings Charles Court Opera into the West End for the first time. What is special to you about this venue?
It reminds me of the Rosemary Branch Theatre, which is where we started out. It’s so intimate and charming, and the audience is able to feel right on top of the action. It may only have 70 seats, but the atmosphere is absolutely buzzing.
Finally, Odyssey focuses on heroes and the heroic. Is this still relevant in the modern world?
We’ve taken the story and found some strong moral moments, that are full of heart, and feel really relevant and accessible. And these five, amazingly talented women are cross-dressing sometimes, naturally, but it’s also now a female led story, which we’re totally excited to share.