THEATRE REVIEW

PENELOPE

By ENDA WALSH

This is the finest existentialist play I have seen. It is about waiting for a new Godot; this time not on a country road, nor by a tree, but in an empty swimming pool where four men pace their minds ... beyond that empty swimming pool is the legendary Ionian sea upon whose waves Odysseus is on his travels as his wife Penelope awaits his return, not knowing when. The four men in the empty swimming pool are also awaiting his return and dreading it because their main raison d’etre is to woo his faithful wife; they see her seduction as some sort of individual salvation, but they also know that since the empty pool is in that absent Odysseus’s house, he will kill them on his return. What price love?

This is a profound and moving play but built almost entirely on madness, silliness and slapstick (even cross-dressing) yet with moments of stillness and reflection and soliloquies of truly universal soul-searching. The ensemble acting is word and action perfect – it is a very demanding play as the actors give their audience a whirligig of things to listen to, watch and marvel at. It is like Alice in Wonderland on speed.

A Druid Theatre Production at Hampstead Theatre, London Until 5 March 2011 Box Office 020 7722 9301

Highly recommended

Shaun Traynor