John Savournin directs Jermyn Street Theatre’s boutique Christmas show, Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime, a madcap retelling of one of the oldest and most thrilling journeys ever undertaken.
The show is co-produced with critically acclaimed Charles Court Opera, one of the leading and most versatile chamber opera and music theatre companies in the UK, who will bring their work onto a West End stage for the first time.
This anarchic musical panto will feature Emily Cairns (Buttons: A Cinderella Story, The Nativity Panto, Beowulf – Kings Head Theatre / Charles Court Opera, Rumpelstiltskin – Park Theatre / Charles Court Opera, BBC Comedy Awards shortlist), Meriel Cunningham (Carmen – Prologue Opera, Nativity Panto- Kings Head / Charles Court Opera, The Mikado – Charles Court Opera), Amy J Payne (A Little Night Music – Leeds Playhouse/Opera North, Cinderella – Opera North), Tamoy Phipps ( Rumpelstiltskin – Park Theatre, Go! The Musical – The Other Palace, Scottsboro Boys – Young Vic Theatre) and Rosie Strobel (Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera – Park Theatre and tour, Mimma – Cadogan Hall/ BBC Concert Orchestra). Each will play a multitude of roles from Penelope to Polyphemus.
Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime is at Jermyn Street Theatre 23 November to 31 December 2023.
You’re directing Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime at Jermyn Street Theatre, what can you tell us about the show?
It’s so hard to describe. It’s bonkers, and has to be witnessed first hand. In true CCO fashion, we’ve taken an existing story and turned it completely upside down, while respecting the original. It’s an inventive, witty retelling of the Odyssey, packed full of madcap, left field humour, fantastic songs (many familiar, some new, all arranged or composed by the brilliant David Eaton) delivered by a cast of five fantastic singers, and plenty of audience participation.
You’re also the writer, where did the inspiration come from?
We’ve (David Eaton, our MD, and I) always enjoyed exploring unusual titles for our pantomimes (we’ve also tackled Beowulf, The Three Musketeers, and even the Nativity, which was about the birth of Father Christmas) and we’ve discussed the Odyssey for a number of years. Stella at JST was particularly drawn to the idea, so we’ve taken the Minotaur by the horns, as it were. It’s such a fantastical story – so inventive – magical, even – and it lends itself so well to a panto treatment. After all, it’s an adventure story, full of awesome characters, including Polyphemus the cyclops, plenty of gods such as Poseidon, and there’s so much scope for drawing on Greek mythology. We’re having too much fun, frankly.
This is the next in a line of Charles Court Opera boutique pantos, what do you enjoy the most about this kind of production?
I think the most exciting thing about these shows is that there are no limits, and it is so collaborative. We can explore and play as much as we like. We have so much fun in rehearsals, drawing on the talents of our extraordinary casts to make something completely unique, that’s full of heart and humour.
What will be the biggest challenge in staging Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime?
Well, it is Homer’s Odyssey. It’s a massive, complex adventure story. And we’re putting it on a (charming and gorgeous) postage stamp of a stage in the middle of London. I think that’s enough of a challenge!
What are you looking forward to most about working with an all female cast?
These five women are absolutely extraordinary. They are bringing so much to the process of making the show – each so unique, with different skills and personalities to offer. It’s thrilling to hear them singing in close harmony together – something that you really notice when all the voices are in the same pitch (and in this case, they are all lower voices (mezzos), which makes it extra close). It’s also fantastic that a story that is originally so male heavy is having a freshness breathed into it by a cast of strong, brilliant women, who cross dress and multirole with such gusto.
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime?
It’s a perfect treat for the family, or for a group of friends – or if you’re feeling especially cheeky, come on one of our Adults only nights, where we crank up the naughtiness. But all we can say is – come and see for yourself. You won’t have seen anything like it, we can promise you that. You’ll love the songs. You’ll love the madness.
Odyssey: A Heroic Pantomime runs at Jermyn Street Theatre from 23 November to 31 December. For more details and to book tickets https://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/