Thursday, 12 August 2021

Ithaca: on demand

 Ithaca 

Edinburgh Fringe On Demand - Friday 6th – Monday 30th August 2021 




Ithaca is an autobiographical feminist one-woman adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey from writer  

and performer Phoebe Angeni. Exploring contemporary social issues, Ithaca follows the journey  of Nobody, a feminine aspect of Odysseus, as she re-defines her relationship with self and  

home. Fantasy and reality merge in this new dynamic and darkly comic production about 

Nobody’s journey to find home, while creating space and a voice for herself within a world and  

body, which seem to forcefully reject her. 

Ithaca is a stage-for-screen production where black box theatre meets experimental film. While  the play draws heavily from Homer’s work, Angeni has taken its broad themes and used them to  tell her own story, having always related to the obstacles Odysseus faces. By playing a female  

version of Odysseus as well as embodying the invisible monsters, she is able to represent her  

authentic experience and place the fuller figured female body in a position of heroism. 

Through the lens of an unconventional heroine, Ithaca examines crucial social issues such as fat 

phobia, bullying, domestic harassment, mental health, chronic illness and immigration. Sadly  

these are all things Angeni has experienced herself having had to go to court to get a lifetime  

restraining order for domestic harassment against her biological father, her experience of  

immigration difficulties between the UK and US and her anxiety issues and depression no doubt  exacerbated by her class at school forming the ‘I Hate Fat Phoebe’ club. Angeni has been able  

to move through her traumas and aims for this work to be a positive portrayal of what is  

possible when you overcome obstacles!  



And for the first predictable question: what was the inspiration for your show?

Since I first picked it up at about age twelve, I’ve been inspired by Homer’s Odyssey. Thirteen or so years and a handful of translations later and I still resonate with Odysseus’ journey towards home and selfhood in the face of great challenges. I’ve always wanted to create a work based on The Odyssey, and when the pandemic hit and lockdowns began I decided it was finally time to check this show off my bucket list!

 

How far does it fit within your usual work, and do you have a particular dramaturgical approach to creating a production?

Much of my work so far has involved Classical texts; however, this piece is a major departure in the fact that, as a poet, it is the first full play I’ve written. As a performer, it’s also a change and introspective challenge to be playing a character based on myself rather than one that someone else has written for me. In addition, this is the first play I’ve produced and directed; however, I have previously produced and directed short films, which very much came in handy given the fact that Ithaca is a digital piece.


In terms of my general approach to creating a production, I can be quite eclectic. I have sub-threshold ADHD, so my first step is always to create focus by setting out plot structure and detailed thoughts/aims for my work scene by scene. This initial outline allows me to jump around within the show as I research and new ideas come to me. I then piece the project together, re-arranging my thoughts like puzzle pieces until they take their final shape.


For Ithaca, I broke down Homer’s epic into its main events and themes, picked out the chapters central to Odysseus, transposed my life story into the place of Odysseus’, and then ran with it. I wanted to create a show that brings Classical Epic into the contemporary age. Ithaca is a piece that experiments with theatrical format and conventions, that raises awareness for social issues, and that anyone can watch and resonate with – whether or not they have read The Odyssey.



 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?

I’d say the best way to describe my work is experimental. I’m inspired by Classical texts, mythology, and physical theatre. I love to link history with the modern-day and I enjoy emphasising the body as geography within which I can explore current socio-political issues. 


Poetry and experimental film also both inform the style in which I present my work, as I focus heavily on how my text sounds, how the lines of dialogue bounce with one another, and how I can create a visually evocative experience. I’m also especially inspired by surrealism and other artistic genres that seek to explore the subconscious and lines between fantasy and reality.

 

What are you hoping that the audience will experience?

Ithaca takes place in a very intimate space and features techniques and effects designed to be absorptive, so I’m hoping that the audience feels as if they’re in the room with me as I perform the show. 


I hope the experience will be inspiring and thought-provoking both in terms of the style of the show and the social issues featured within the plot. If audience members resonate with the journey of my central character, Nobody, I hope that they will feel her strength and that they will leave the show with a sense of catharsis, empowerment, and hope.

 

 

How have you found the challenge of creating a production online? Has it been positive or negative and have there been any surprises?

Creating a digital show has definitely been a challenge, but it has also given me the amazing opportunity to expand my knowledge of pre and post-production. Since the pandemic, I found myself as a one-woman operation both on and off-stage and the format of creating a digital piece allowed me to not only write and perform Ithaca, but also to direct, film, and edit the show.


 Having my hand in every element of production allowed me to shape the show into a distilled expression of my creative vision. The most difficult aspect of production was operating in a sixteen square foot room with fairly limited technology and only myself as both performer and camera operator. The challenges and restrictions I faced throughout production, however, also pushed me to think outside of my expectations and create a piece that ultimately took on a life of its own!

 

I have always asked about the role of theatre in public debate, but this now seems even more relevant. In the current landscape, what does theatre or performance have to give to the public sphere?

I believe in theatre’s gift of perspective and empathetic connection. In a world both recovering from and still amidst a pandemic, connection is something that we all deeply crave and throughout this past couple of years connection has increasingly come from digital platforms. 


Theatre has always given its audiences something great to be a part of – a community, a story, a space. Digital theatre will not replace live shows, but it democratises performance, both connecting artists across the globe and ensuring that communities with accessibility requirements aren’t left behind as traditional spaces re-open.


At its best, theatre is by and for the people and should reflect our truth, bring us together, and advocate for a better future. Theatre is for socio-political examination, to reflect the light and shadow of society, and theatre is also for experimentation – to show the world its potential.


Title Ithaca 

Performance Dates Friday 6th – Monday 30th August 2021 

Available on demand 

Running Time 60 minutes 

Box Office Tickets are available from www.edfringe.com priced £9 (£5) 

Instagram @phoebe.angeni, @offrecordangeni, #IthacaEdinburgh Twitter @PhoebeAngeni, #IthacaEdinburgh 

www.phoebeangeni.com/ithaca 


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