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Review of ODD In Concert at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Last night I had the privilege to hear the first public performance of the new musical offering ODD. Winner of the Perfect Pitch award in 2014, ODD is a loose modern retelling of Homer's Odyssey. Bringing the story bang up to date, the lead character Odessa (or Odd as she is known) has been giving a copy of the classic Greek tale and becomes absorbed by the story and begins to see a potential path of her own journey around her.

For the concert we are presented with the full first act and abreviated storytelling and a choice selection of songs from the second. Although presented as a concert and read from book on podiums front of stage by seven actors, this is still a very effecting play, with vivid and often very funny songs and script. The seven actors while only in theory there to present a preview, still put great style into their performances.

The songs are an impressive collection, with high variety. The catchy opening Long Way From Home reminded me of the style of songs like those in Les Miserables, powerful and marching. While the more ballad/rap (nice contrast) style of Little Wooden Horse was a lovely mix of gentle and hard hitting. A particular standout song, especially in the humour stakes was the strip club song, performed with salacious style by Jessie May.

Perhaps as important as the performance was the post show talk, where the creators sought feedback from the audience. I myself did not get involved as I tend to mull over things a bit before putting key to finger. However the crowd were particularly interested in providing their ideas and thoughts and without doubt it was clear that opinions always vary, such is life. Maybe with the exception of giving the crowd those applause moments.

The panel chaired by Mr Dimbleby (in disguise as R&D Artistic Director James Dacre on the evening) presented the audience with a selection of questions. The first of which was whether a need to have some knowledge of The Odyssey was required to fully enjoy ODD. Opinion was mixed, however I being in the rudimentary knowledge area felt I actually learnt more from this telling than I had of a performance of it I saw last year. Presented through a bunch of modern characters (many of them criminal misfits), it was easy to understand and follow. Especially as the characters themselves didn't know the story and were learning themselves. A lady in the audience was quite right that if you watch an opera, you either know little of the story or can even understand the words. I have watched some (probably too much) Shakespeare in the last year and for the best part not understood much of it, but my understanding has definitely improved. It has however not detracted from my enjoyment as with live theatre you are frequently just carried along with the ride, perhaps even more so with musicals.

Audience appeal was also brought up and although to be commercially successful, you need to appeal to as many demographics as possible, I feel this must not distract from the aim of the show. Surely if you start trying to target an audience, you not only take it away from your own initial ambitions for a show, but also are in danger of alienating another type of audience accidentally anyway. Also it was mentioned whether it was an international musical and for the best part I suspect it probably is, although I am note sure how well the Made In Chelsea line might travel.

Another member of the audience described the tenseness of the whole musical, saying there was no calm. As was suggested this came from the first act mostly as there was no room for applause and for a complete performance this would alter. However my thoughts would be that there could certainly be a lot more spoken word between the songs to calm things down a touch and to help explain and progress the story more. Lines of dialogue seemed sparse and it is clear that as this is not a totally sung musical, therefore making more of the spoken word is key for me.

While still being in its infant stages, this feels quite a quality show of the future. I would love at this time to hear many of the songs again, so I wouldn't agree with one audience member that the songs were not ones you could take away with you. You can hear a couple yourself here: http://www.perfectpitchmusicals.com/odd/music.html, although very sadly not the strip club song.

I am glad that I was at the first performance and I will happily see the finished product in however many years time this may be. For writers Chris Bush and Matt Winkworth, I wish you well for the future and your journey of your own.


Performance reviewed: Friday 21st February, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.

ODD is being developed via Pitch Perfect, details of which can be found at http://www.perfectpitchmusicals.com/

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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