Tired of waiting for Odysseus

Issue 

Opa: A Sexual Odyssey
Written and directed by Patricia Cornelius
Musical director Irine Vela
Actors: Anna Butera, Eugenia Fragos, Helen Trenos, Laura Lattuada, Maryann Sam

Musicians: Carolyn Connors, Christella Demetriou, Irine Vela, Rachael Cogan
Atheneum Theatre, Melbourne, until February 19
Bookings: 650-1977
Reviewed by Andrea Bunting and Sue Bolton

Opa is the story of Penelope as she awaits the return of Odysseus. But Odysseus is away for 20 years — too long a time to keep a promise of fidelity. Penelope is torn between waiting for her "true love" and the desire for immediate and uncomplicated sexual pleasure. Her fantasies are revealed by four actors, the sirens of her psyche, who lure her into a journey through a forbidden erotic landscape.

Opa is an exploration of women's sexual fantasies. The idea for this play began with a project to research the sensuality and fantasies of women from different cultural backgrounds. The universality of thought and expression in their sexual fantasies formed the basis of the script.

The multicultural approach of the project was reflected by the multicultural backgrounds of the women performers: from Greek, Albanian, Torres Strait Islander, Anglo-Celtic and Macedonian backgrounds. Music from different cultures complements the retelling of the Odyssean myth. The music includes familiar love songs, Greek songs of passion and original compositions from the musical director, Irine Vela, reflecting her own Albanian, Turkish and Greek background.

Reflecting sexual fantasies on stage could have been a difficult task, but Anna Butera as Penelope, and the four sirens, explore Penelope's fantasies in a bold yet light-hearted way. Women's enjoyment of sex, with or without romantic love, is celebrated.

Penelope's sexual exploration makes her a stronger and more confident woman. When Odysseus returns, he is angered by the more confident and sexually assured Penelope. The romantic ideal is shattered for Penelope, and she rejects the domineering Odysseus.

It is refreshing to see a play which celebrates women's sexual fantasies in a non-judgmental way. This is one not to be missed.

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