The Odyssey: On Stage



1 August 2021


“Tell me about a complicated man.”

First told almost three thousand years ago, this epic poem has been retold all over the world. The Odyssey is the gripping story of the hero Odysseus, his wife Penelope, and their son Telemachus. It tells of gods and monsters, witches and drugs, but it is also a tale of revenge, migration and friendship. Emily Wilson’s translation was acclaimed as a cultural landmark on its publication. It is dramatised by our Artistic Director Tom Littler, and performed as a staged reading in six parts by a company of ten actors and six guest-star narrators. Head to our blog to find out who’s playing who in each part! 


9.30am: The Boy and the Goddess
Books 1-4

The story begins. Odysseus has been away at the Trojan War for almost twenty years. At home on Ithaca, his wife Penelope works to keep the kingdom together and outwit the power-hungry suitors. Their son Telemachus embarks on a secret voyage to find news of his father.

Running time Two hours

12.30pm: The Songs of a Poet
Books 5-8

The story turns to Odysseus, held captive by the nymph Calypso. Surviving a catastrophic shipwreck, he is washed up in a magical island kingdom, where he must persuade the local people to spare his life. This episode contains some of the most enchanting poetry of The Odyssey

Running time 90 minutes

2.45pm: The Winds and the Witch
Books 9-12

Odysseus tells of his adventures – from the Lotus-Eaters to the monstrous Cyclops; from the God of the Winds to the clashing rocks to the witch Circe, who turns all his men into pigs. In his quest to get home, he has even voyaged into the land of the dead. 

Running time Two hours

5.30pm: Father and Son
Books 13-16

Compared with the trials that lie ahead, getting home was easy. Odysseus reaches Ithaca, but his rivals are taking over the island. Keeping his identity secret, Odysseus wins the trust of a loyal swineherd. Meanwhile, as Telemachus’ ship nears shore, the suitors plot an assassination. 

Running time 90 minutes

7.45pm: The Queen and the Beggar
Books 17-20

The tension mounts as the story becomes a thriller. Disguised as a beggar, Odysseus returns to his own palace, but he can trust nobody. Time is ticking. Penelope is planning an archery contest for the suitors: the winner will gain her hand in marriage and the kingship of Ithaca.

Running time 90 minutes

10.00pm: The Olive Tree Bed
Books 21-24

Battle breaks out in the palace, as Odysseus and his band of allies launch a devastating ambush. But as fighting continues and a new war threatens, Penelope faces tests of her own. This episode brings The Odyssey to a pulsating finale. 

Running time 90 minutes

Any profits from The Odyssey support our work with early-career artists via our Creative Associates programme. 



James Purefoy
James Purefoy has been seen on screen in Rome, Fisherman’s Friends and Churchill and has performed many times with the RSC.
Susannah Harker
Susannah Harker is perhaps best known for Pride and Prejudice and House of Cards and made her JST debut in The Blinding Light.
Chirag Benedict Lobo
Chirag is a 2020/21 Creative Associate at JST and a graduate of Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Clare Perkins
Clare Perkins has performed on stage in Emilia and The Convert as well as appearing in BAFTA-winning Pig Heart Boy on the screen.
Michael Pennington
Zeus, Alcinous, Laertes
Four-time Olivier Award nominee Michael Pennington is Honorary Associate Artist of the RSC and founded the English Shakespeare Company.
David Sturzaker
Antinous, Agamemnon
David has performed in several shows with Shakespeare's Globe and the RSC, and was a regular on the TV show Doctors.
Robert Mountford
Eurymachus, Polyphemus
Robert has worked with Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre and Tara Arts, as well as on screen. His solo shaw Vagabonds – My Phil Lynott Story has sold out to audiences in both London and Dublin.
Marion Bailey
Recently Marion Bailey has been seen in The Crown as The Queen Mother and has starred in Mr Turner, Meantime and Vera Drake.
Sam Crerar
Hermes, Nausicaa
Sam Crerar, a graduate of LAMDA, performed in JST’s The Sonnet Project.
Jim Findley
Poseidon, Eumaeus
Jim has performed at the Donmar Warehouse, the Lyric Hammersmith, Regent's Park and the Almeida.
Doña Croll
Narrator (The Boy and the Goddess)
Doña Croll was most recently seen at JST in 15 Heroines as Phaedra and is perhaps best-known for her performance in Family Affairs.
Janet Suzman
Narrator (The Songs of a Poet)
Dame Janet Suzman, one of the most respected stage actresses of her generation, began her early career with the RSC.
Lisa Dwan
Narrator (The Winds and the Witch)
Lisa is known as an expert on the work of Samuel Beckett and appeared on Netflix's Top Boy.
Miranda Raison
Narrator (Father and Son)
Miranda Raison has been seen in programmes such as Spooks and Lewis as well as performing recently on stage in The Winter’s Tale.
Hattie Morahan
Narrator (The Queen and the Beggar)
Best Actress at the Evening Standard Awards for her performance in A Doll’s House, Hattie Morahan has also been seen in Beauty and the Beast and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Rachel Pickup
Narrator (The Olive Tree Bed
Rachel appeared in Wonder Woman and has been seen in productions at Rose Theatre Kingston and with the RSC.


“Emily Wilson's version is a crisp and musical cultural landmark.”
Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian