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Reviewed by:
  • Mythos
  • Ian Watson
Mythos. By Odin Teatret. Odin Teatret. Escuela Bellas Artes, Encuentro Ayacucho International Theatre Festival, Lima, Peru. 3 June 1998

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Figure 1.

Iben Nagel Rasmussen and Tage Larsen in Oden Teatret’s Mythos, directed by Eugenio Barba. Photo: Jan Rüsz.

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Figure 2.

Torgeir Wethal, Frans Winther, Roberta Carreri, Jan Ferselev, Tage Larsen, Iben Nagel Rasmussen, Julia Varley, and Kai Bredholt in Oden Teatret’s Mythos, directed by Eugenio Barba. Photo: Jan Rüsz.

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Figure 3.

Torgeir Wethal and Tage Larsen in Oden Teatret’s Mythos, directed by Eugenio Barba. Photo: Jan Rüsz.

Mythos, the latest production by Odin Teatret, directed by Eugenio Barba, interweaves two seemingly unconnected stories simultaneously. On the one hand, it is the journey of a human soul from death to rebirth through an underworld of mythical archetypes rooted in Europe’s ancient Greek heritage. On the other, it is about the revolutionary’s struggle in the world of the living. The dual stories of Mythos signal a return of sorts for Barba. As in earlier Odin productions, such as Kaspariana (1967) and Brecht’s Ashes (1980), the inspiration for Mythos and much of its text comes from the poetry of a well-known writer, in this case the Danish poet Henrik Nordbrandt. In keeping with this legacy of return, the casting of Mythos reasserts the group’s Nordic roots. For the first time in over twenty years, all of the actors in this Odin production are either Scandinavian or have lived in Denmark and worked with Barba for more than twenty years.

The echoes of return are also evident in the connections between Mythos and an earlier Odin production, Oxyrhincus Evangeliet (1985). Both productions are peopled with iconic figures either taken directly from mythology or of mythological proportions. Antigone, Polinices, and Joan of Arc appeared in Oxyrhincus while Mythos includes Cassandra, Oedipus, Medea, Ulysses, Dedalus, and Sisyphus. Characters aside, the productions also share a great deal aesthetically. Mythos revisits a significant element of Oxyrhincus through the presentation of the mythological archetypes in rich colorful costuming that reflects the influences of both the traditional Japanese theatres of Noh and Kabuki as well as the rococo quality of the European baroque. Similarly, the productions have much in common in their staging. As in Oxyrhincus, the audience for Mythos enters a space enclosed by curtains that contain the performance and seating areas. In both productions, the spectators sit/sat on two sections of raked seating separated by a playing area that divides(d) the space. In Oxyrhincus, this playing area was dominated by a hanamichi-like wooden stage. In Mythos, a pathway of small pebbles on the floor, of similar proportions to the Oxyrhincus stage, replaces its wooden counterpart. And both productions mark(ed) the ends of the hanamichi with tower-like structures that are/were also used as playing areas.

As with all of Barba’s creations, Mythos is far from a straightforward narrative. It does, however, contain the germ of a simple tale of biblical proportions: a man, the Brazilian soldier Guilhermino Barbosa, dies, travels through the land of the dead, and is reborn. Yet, it begins in a relatively realistic manner with people gathered for a funeral. The guests stand quietly talking among themselves at one end of a huge table covered in a pristine white table cloth while the audience enters. A toast to the departed marks the beginning of the action, but it is disrupted as an uninvited guest appears and the table is suddenly torn apart to reveal the path of stones beneath it. A dead body wrapped in cloth lies on the stones. The table as grave is transformed into the two towers, described earlier, as the actors become the mythical characters that, along with the Brazilian soldier, dominate the rest of the piece. The transformation thrusts the play from a theatricalized daily reality into a world of images and metaphors that connote both an odyssey in the liminal world between life and death, as well as a historical journey. This journey is the 25...

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