Odysseus' journey home was wearisome, adventurous. As part of an ambitious theater project in Germany's Ruhr region, audience members undertake an odyssey of their own as they are guided through six cities in two days.
It's alll about the spaces in between the theaters, says architect Mathias Rick
The theater project "Odyssey Europa" was masterminded not by stage directors, but by architects: Matthias Rick and the collective raumlabourberlin. The event premieres on February 27-28 as part of the 2010 European Capital of Culture program in the Ruhr region and is repeated on March 6-7, March 13-14, April 2-3, and May 22-23.
Deutsche Welle: Matthias Rick, you are, literally, the architect of Odyssey Europa. What does that mean? What role does your architectural collective play in this ambitious theater project?
Matthias Rick: Six authors from different countries have been invited to present their own contemporary interpretations of Homer's Odyssey. The pieces they have written will be performed in six different theaters in six different cities across the Ruhr region. Raumlabor have been invited to create the trip between the theater pieces - the "odyssey," in fact.
What is the "odyssey"? What will happen to the audience when they arrive?
You will arrive Saturday morning in front of the first theater. You will have to "check in" - because you are crossing a border - and then you are inside this project. You will see the first piece.
Hospitality is a central idea in "Odyssey," so we have invited the citizens of the area to act as hosts. After the first piece, a host will greet you and take you to the next theater. This will be a local person who will take you in his car, on the subway or whatever. It's entirely his or her decision.
In addition to the journey, audiences view six theater productions in various cities in the Ruhr region
The project takes place over two days. How does this work in practice?
On the first day you will see performances in three cities: Essen, Oberhausen and Bochum. Then comes the night, which you will be invited to spend in your host's home. Then we have the second day in Muellheim, Moers and Dortmund. The transport in between the cities will vary according to the preference of your host. It could be cars, boats, buses, metros…
Everyone knows that Odysseus was trying to get home. In a sprawling industrial metropolis made up of 53 separate cities, where is home?
That's a good question. It is the question "Odyssey" is asking: Where is home? How do you find home? It's the main theme of the theater pieces and it's also a question which has been very important to us in creating the tour. We call this trip "an odyssey through the world in-between."
I think one of the characteristics of this region is this world between the cities: empty spaces. We have islands - the theater pieces are the islands and our journey is like shipping between these islands.
It's a very special concept. Perhaps that's why they asked an architect!
Interview: Kate Laycock
Editor: Kate Bowen