There and back again: an Odyssey - Lyngo Theatre



We saw the performance at Lighthouse, Poole's Centre for the Arts, in the intimate setting of the Sherling Studio.

The show is aimed at children aged 6-11. Homer? For children? I was intrigued to see how this would work, and awaited the start of the performance with a mixture of curiosity and anticipation.

As soon as the lights went down, and Lynch took to the stage I could see that we were in for a rare treat. 

A story that could have been extremely heavy going for an audience of children on their Easter holidays, seemed to captivate them and they sat engrossed in what was unfolding before their eyes. The visual element of the performance really helped with this, as we followed Ulysses on his classic journey, both aided and hindered by the gods. 

Despite the lack of an interval, there was no fidgeting, instead, you felt like you were witnessing something very special indeed. 

Skillfully re-telling this epic tale, whilst at the same time using props, and also operating lighting and cameras to great effect, Lynch ensured we were truly drawn into the story.

A real feast for the eyes, we were able to watch Lynch operating the props that were creating the visual telling of the story on the big screen. Sounds complicated, and it's very difficult to explain, but I can assure you the result was magical.

Despite being aimed at children, I think that many adults would enjoy this show. I came away feeling that I had witnessed the most original creative performance I'd seen in a long time.

My seven-year-old's verdict? "Amazing!" And trust me, seven-year-olds can be hard to please.


The story of the Odyssey …

It’s all smoke and mirrors … really they’re both used … and sand, and water, and models, and silk cloth, and puppets and rocks and bones, and an undulating screen, and narrative and face close-ups and even hair dryers, all set to an atmospheric soundtrack. It takes its title from the more modern odyssey, by J.R.R. Tolkien … but it is the Greek myth.

Patrick Lynch (from CBeebies) is narrating, with a long table with lights and video cameras on one side of the playing area, and a loose floating sheet as a screen on the other. Foot switches were used to operate and shift between cameras. Backgrounds and skies slotted effortlessly into place behind the sand. Rocks were added. Puppets were moved into place. Falling sand created islands. Water swirled. The actor’s eye became the Cyclops in extreme close up. His mouth became the Cyclops feeding. The camera on his face revolved through 360 degrees.

I was lost in admiration. I used to do talks on teaching with video, and my equipment set up on speaking tours was a video player, an overhead projector and an audio player. Eventually a laptop replaced the OHP projector, but I still needed two screens. Then I added DVD to demonstrate that for classroom language teaching, video is better than DVD (you can isolate single frames on a professional video machine, and advance one at a time … you can’t do that with DVD). And I had to give the talk too. It was nothing to the amount of technology and equipment used here to great artistic effect.

Here our actor, Parick Lynch, had the widest multi-tasking task I’ve seen. The projected film showed what he was doing with his hands and the camera, and if it had simply been recorded and shown at the Tate Modern as a video art installation, it would have garnered massive praise. But here it was all being created in front of us and filmed live, whilst doing a splendid narration.

The story of the Odyssey was cut and constructed extremely well too. I took a 13, 11 and 6 year old with me, and all were entranced. The six year old never fidgeted and remained enthralled. I’ll add that I would have been equally entranced if I had gone on my own just to watch.

Most remarkably this was the first show in the tour that Patrick Lynch had done. It could run off and on at half terms and Saturdays for years. It was a clear introduction to the story too.

The word unique is over-used, so I’ll say it only once … it is a unique and richly rewarding theatrical experience. It is half-term, I’d gone expecting a normal kiddy show (I don’t usually review those at all), but this was much more than that.

Comments? Well, it was watch rather than “participate” but on the way in a kid was saying “We won’t have to DO anything, will we?” A heartfelt cry from a boy who had clearly seen (and been dragged into participating) in a lot of children’s theatre. My three were relieved too.

Highly recommended. It’s on tour.


In There and Back Again storyteller, actor and puppeteer Patrick Lynch presents an hour-long version of the Odyssey. The Homeric saga is told through a mixture of sophisticated technology and the very simplest means.

With sand, lumps of stone, crude ceramics and folds of cloth, he presents his protagonist and fashions the places and oceans of his travels.

He begins talking directly to the audience, inviting them to feed him information as he tells them it is a story about going home. Turning away he switches on a camera and, projected upstage on a loosely hung cloth, we see his finger draw a route in sand and then clear it to reveal the word HOME and then HOMER before, wiping off more sand, he picks up a book.

Coming back to face the audience, he holds it up and it spills sand, and more sand; like a story pouring forth, it goes on doing so. Where does it come from? It is extraordinarily simple but looks fascinating; a little bit of theatricality that grips the audience. From now on the theatre full of school parties is entirely with him.

On a table top with cameras set up around it, he acts out Odysseus’s adventures, first filling in the background of the hero trying to get out of going to Troy, then of thinking up the Wooden Horse to get the Greeks victory even before he embarks on the voyage going home with all its dangers.

Crudely decorated pottery and lumps of stone become a village or a palace as they move in front of a camera. Blue cloth waves swamp the returning Greek ships, rudimentary representations but the action obvious. Only his vessel sails on.

When it is wrecked a tiny bearded head appears: Odysseus struggling for survival who looks down at two tiny feet as he is stretched out, beached on a sand strip; on camera they can look life-size, the camera angle helps imagination make them real, gives the audience Odysseus’s gaze. When Odysseus blinds the Cyclops, it is a close up of Lynch’s own mouth that shows his pain.

Sometimes, while Lynch arranges items for a new scene, the image will freeze-frame, but he never seems to lose his rapport with the audience, helped by his continued narrative, Carlo Cialdo Capelli’s music, careful timing and by the children’s own imaginative investment.

At the schools’ performance I saw, the children clearly loved it, both those who already knew the story and those for whom it was a new one. Questions after suggested they were also fascinated by its means of execution: not just “was that real blood?” of the killings on Ithaca but how the pottery was made and how the pictures happen.

Lynch explained how other people helped him put the show together, including interactive programming which gives him push-button control for 87 different cues that change camera, lighting or music. There was also one audience complaint: that the rocks and whirlpool weren’t included. It’s not the only incident that is missing, but you can’t fit Homer’s long saga into just one hour.

Aftershow Q & A sessions not only satisfy the curiosity of youngsters, they also set out to actively encourage them to be creative, suggesting how they can use simple materials and their own webcams to tell their own stories, whether privately or with their teachers.


At around 3000 years old, Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey stand proud amongst the world’s most ancient surviving literature. Greek gods, battles, love and revenge rage through the epic poems that verge on 28,000 lines of Ancient Greek. Translated into often impenetrable flowery prose or verse, these great works make for chewy bedtime reading let alone a quick story for the kids.

Lyngo Theatre’s There and Back Again - An Odyssey has chewed away at this epic for us and made it accessible to anyone aged 6 to 100. The old and new come together through live object and puppet theatre that is projected onto the big screen. Far from distancing us from the original story, the physical presence of image and sound bring us closer to the old oral tradition of narration that existed long before Homer. Everything is intentionally bigger on screen – the toy Trojan Horse projects tall and majestic and Patrick Lynch leers menacingly into the lens as the Cyclops approaching a trapped Ulysses.

Face half lit, Lynch is a master storyteller who peels back the Odyssey to its core tale of a man, Ulysses, who just wants to get back home. Tiny walnut boats glide and churn through swathes of fabric sea, pages weave across the screen as waves, and Action Man presses his toes into new lands. Carlo Cialdo Capelli’s evocative piano score accompanies and sweeps us through the fear, drama and curiosity.

At the end, awestruck children crowd around as did generations of kids when the old travelling storytellers came from village to village. Lynch continues in his dramatic role as one child pipes up, “How did you make the blood?”. The storyteller has a glint in his eye, “Why, from children of course! But only the youngest will do!”. A ripple of excitement and giggling sets in and every face, young and old, lights up.


My 7 year old daughter and I saw a Lyngo production of the Odyssey at the Cornerstone in Didcot today. Other than an initial “when are they going to start acting”, she and I were mesmerised for the next hour. Never have a pair of Action Man legs been used to such dramatic effect.

We came to see 'There and back again: an odyssey' in Stafford this week and loved it. I was so impressed with your innovative and clever storytelling, and the kids (7 and 10) were both inspired to try to create something themselves. Thanks for coming to Stafford!

We ALL loved this production. There and Back Again - an Odyssey. Can thoroughly recommend! Strange & wonderful.

Loved the ingenious quirkiness of There And Back Again, the Ulysses odyssey told by Patrick Lynch using projected miniature puppetry.

Just come out of ‘There And Back Again’. Unusual and absolutely superb. My seven-year-old says it is the best show he has ever seen with puppets in it (The Muppets are gutted!)