Irish playwright Enda Walsh specialises in trapping his often larger than life characters in situations they just can’t get out of.

Unfortunately, trapped is just how I felt during what seemed like much longer than 85 minutes of dense verbal outpourings in his update of a slice of Homer’s Odyssey.

In the original, Penelope, wife of Odysseus, kept a hundred suitors dangling with the promise that (as her husband was missing, presumed dead) she would wed one of them as soon as she’d finished weaving a burial shroud. All the while she was unravelling during the night much of what she had accomplished during the day.

In Walsh’s whacky version, Penelope appears at intervals, her entrance preceded by a siren and flashing red light. She doesn’t look the type to indulge in needlework. Only four potential husbands remain, living in sweltering conditions in a drained swimming pool and well past their best. Death has claimed all the others, and the final quartet makes a last ditch attempt to woo the silent and enigmatic Penelope.

Denis Conway’s flabby Dunne tries to win her with a vaudevillian spring in his step, Niall Buggy’s ailing Fitz with softly spoken entreaty, whilst Karl Shiels’ strutting, wildly exhibitionist Quinn (aided by Aaron Monaghan’s morose Burns) puts on a quick-change fancy dress display of famous lovers including Rhett Butler, Napoleon and their respective other halves.

Druid Theatre’s production is well acted, peppered with symbolism (Quinn tries – and fails – to barbecue a tiny sausage) and more than a hint of the influence of Beckett, but the deluge of words is almost relentless and I kept on hoping against hope that Odysseus would hurry home from the Trojan wars and rescue not only his faithful wife but me as well.


Hampstead, Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU
020 7722 9301
Tube: Swiss Cottage
Until March 5th
£22 -£29

– Louise Kingsley