Ulla’s Odyssey

Coventry Belgrade B2


Whatever the opposite of ‘dumbing down’ might be, OperaUpClose at the Belgrade have just delivered it in spades.

There were opportunities to dumb down – Brussels sprouts and wind being just one – but this family-friendly new opera is a delight in presenting not only an amazing story line but music, real on-stage musicians and a version of Homer’s Odyssey that is spell-binding, magical, inventive theatre.

Ulla (Sarah Minns) is a child navigating a solo round-the-world journey against many obstacles but chiefly time – she badly wants to win the coveted title of Youngest Round-the-World Sailor. Her cat Binny (Oskar McCarthy also Garibdis) – a puppet supported by the other cast members who also play the various monsters that Ulla meets including Sylla (Pamela Hay), Cy-ops (Edward Hughes), a female Poseidon God of the Sea (Flora McIntosh) and the Sirens.

Ulla realises on her journey that there is no such thing as a solo voyage; so many people are involved and supportive. She must learn also to listen to advice and take care of the environment as she travels. The deal she strikes – and breaks with Poseidon – that she mustn’t on any account unleash all the four winds at once - dooms her efforts to win – but it becomes less important than getting home safely to the people who love her.

A lot of the story is sung as you might expect but also talked. It unfolds with beautiful and clever use of props and lighting in a really small space – nearly all the action takes place aboard the boat ‘The Homer’ which is essentially two bits of wood and sail. When it breaks apart she is left to float home with just her trusty cat for company.

In 50 minutes, I travelled the globe with Ulla and enjoyed the trip as much as any holiday. Highly recommended. Written by Leanna Brodie, with music composed by Anthony Young and directed by Valentina Ceschi Ulla sails to 01-04-17

Jane Howard


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