London Bubble, Oxleas Wood.
There is nothing can beat trudging round an ancient forest in on-off rain, sneaking past an angry Cyclops with his eye put-out, holding back the tears at a series of little shrines to lost sailors and trying to ignore the screaming cries of Sirens in one-man tents.
Yup – Bubble are at it again – and if you’re quick you’ll just about catch them. The choice of The Odyssey (by you, if you became a ‘stakeholder’ as I suggested a few months ago…) was inspired – an episodic quest story of a ridiculously long journey is perfect for promenade theatre, not least because Bubble make the audience go on a quest of their own, shuffling through woods, up hills, across meadows and through the odd muddy puddle, puctuated by scenes that tell the trials and tribulations of Odysseus and his crew.
It’s Greek myth – so don’t look for laughs. The gods play with men as literal Playmobil figures and they’re neither kind nor logical. Bubble have squeezed in one or two giggles – mainly fun anachronistic comments – but this is not as funny as usual – and it shouldn’t be. It’s grim, epic stuff.
I liked the way they brought out the characters of the crew, so you actually give a damn about guys who are usually just bit-parts and – Spoiler Alert, if you’ve never read the book – reminded me it’s never a good idea to be one of a hero’s six best men. Or, indeed, any of them.
Multiple Character Syndrome meant that a couple of times I was slightly confused as to who people were to start with, though it generally sorted itself out as a scene went on. I particularly liked the double casting of Penelope and Circe.
As usual, the best bits for me were the bits between the scenes though; the little set-pieces along the (ridiculously long in places – and all the better for it…) route that add depth both to the background of the piece – and to the playing space itself – making me feel as though I was completely within a different world.
Only one thing got me. And that was listening to a couple of (perfectly healthy) young women in front of me complaining about the route. They said that they should have had extra lights and warnings about obstacles; that they hoped Bubble were insured in case someone tripped over a root.
My blood boiled.
Whatever happened to Personal Responsibility?
You go to a promenade show in the woods, you KNOW what’s coming. Er, that will be – woods. There will be trees. They have roots. And branches. It’s called Nature. There are plenty of warnings on the website and the leaflets and suggestions that anyone with mobility problems might prefer a different venue. It is up to YOU to watch where YOU are going. It’s not anyone else’s fault if YOU go arse over tit because YOU didn’t take care of YOURself
Bubble – don’t be drawn by these pathetic individuals. The very fact that it’s dark and ever so very slightly ‘dangerous’ (for heavens sake what do they want – arc lights?) is the point of a piece like this. I want to have to take care. I want to stumble just a little bit. I want to experience something of the quest that Odysseus made.
You can still catch it at Oxleas Woods if you’re quick – it’s on tonight and tomorrow night. Then you can see it at the much ‘safer’ Southwark Park from Thursday to Sunday (recommended if you are the type that’s likely to sue if you catch your woolly on a twig.) Find tickets here.