The premise of ‘Larry’s Odyssey’ is that you are part of a drama class, and it is terribly effective at putting you in that space.
Every personality type in the audience is brought out, the wallflowers among us are engaged by the teacher but not made to do the heavy lifting, there are those of us with potential who get the speaking parts, some of us stumble around embarrassed by our movements, some of us cling to our clicks, some of us are bursting at the seams to improvise and take over the class. Yet it is the teacher who does most of the acting alone with a star student, and they impress with their skills making us realise how far we have to go. Just like the first lesson in a drama course.
The strength of the students/audience members no doubt plays a part in how successful the show/class goes.
We’re in a small empty room with a little stage, welcomed by Larry’s long term student Michael (Matt Abell-King) and then Larry (Vashti Hughes) is with us. Larry cuts an impressive figure, a deep booming voice coming from his diaphragm, with facial expressions and grand gestures that speak even louder than that voice. Sporting a padded gut, white Andy Warhol styled hair and twinkling brown eyes, Larry is completely comfortable in his own skin and dares you to be the same.
Some of the things Larry says are so clever and funny in their lack of awareness that if he had just performed on stage it would have been a fun night. However getting the audience involved works well, playing up every awkward encounter and making us feel involved in Larry’s poor treatment of Michael.
There are references to the original ‘Odyssey’ throughout but you don’t need to know the original text to enjoy yourself. It will certainly bring back some fond memories for some drama nerds too, but you don’t have to share that background either. First night gaffes occurred occasionally, Larry at one point grabbed a sheet of dialogue off a participant to read his lines seamlessly. One wonders with increased confidence and a willing audience if the show could be off the chain without going off the rails. That if audiences were encouraged to ad lib and risk throwing the narrative off, that something really special could be created, but there is a story here and due to the performance of Michael it really pays dividends.
In the end, Larry and Michael create a safe space, to have a laugh and observe some human nature.