Review: Sirens, Men and Crabs at Unity Theatre ****


Good things come to those that wait.

And for fans of Teatro Pomodoro, the Liverpool-based international theatre troupe, it’s been an 18-month wait for their new slice of the absurd after the surreal show’s original dates as part of the Unity’s 40th birthday celebrations were delayed due to the pandemic.

Billed in grandiose style by Simone Tani’s luxuriously bewigged storyteller as “an international tragedy…better than a Greek tragedy”, Sirens, Men and Crabs is a loose retelling of Homer’s Odyssey delivered in Teatro Pomodoro’s singular style.

This is conspiratorial storytelling, with the three-strong cast not only breaking the fourth wall to narrate the tale but punching a big hole through it to involve the audience in the action.

The vainglorious Ulysses (also Tani) is set on adventure, and, spurning the pleas of his wife Penelope (Carmen Arquelladas) to think of their son Telemachus (Miwa Nagai in one of many nifty visual conceits) he sets off armed with nothing but 157 “and a half” men, a cardboard ship and a tin of wax.

His self-appointed quest is to survive the sweet but deadly song of the Siren – here a sort-of 1980s wafty Clannad vocal - and return to Ithaca a hero.

Arquelladas’ Siren meanwhile lives beneath the waves in loved-up harmony with Nagai’s titular Giant Crab and their fishy offspring, only breaking off from domestic bliss to lure men to their deaths in the deep.

While you don’t have to be an expert on Greek mythology or theatre to appreciate their clever lo-fi reworking of an epic, a bit of background knowledge might help – particularly when the action suddenly verges off to scoop up a section of Euripides’ tragedy Medea with the Crab cast in the role of the spurned spouse who kills her children in vengeance.

Tragedy yes, but one that’s given a slyly silly spin by the Pomodoro team under the direction of Mark ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ Bell.

The story unfolds on Lois Maskell’s visually charming, if sparse, set which is framed with a quartet of giant curling fish skeletons, and with the help of a few deliberately homespun props.