The concept of Walking Towards Ithica is very simple, It is a man sat at a desk talking about a walk he went on post-Brexit. I’ll admit, it doesn’t sound like a particularly enthralling topic. Campbell Edinborough does nothing to dress it up, There are no bells and whistles. The performance is unaided by technical or athletic feats. Yet, for Walking Towards Ithica to be anything other than what it is would have been practically sacrilege.
The play’s form comes, at its heart, from its conception. Edinborough speaks about telling stories of Odysseus to his daughter, and effortlessly tells us a similar story. He subtly invites us to open up our imagination to a simple story about a journey home – or perhaps away from it. The normality of the landscape takes on a small touch of the fantastical and becomes absolutely captivating. We are completely held by his tale, told from pages laid out on a table before him.
What, ultimately, is the brilliance of Walking towards Ithica, is that it uses a childish imagination to explore unchildish things. The comforting mode of the pedagogical storyteller allows Edinborough to pose big questions, express incomparable ideas, and demand our intellectual attention as well as our imaginative one. He draws attention to the volatility of language, of how smart phone discourse permeates into violence, by letting the telling of the story – the recounting of words – to be the story.
The risk here is, of course, that it might become preachy, that it may lose power by suggesting simple answers where it is clear there are none. Edinborough, however, does not do this. There are no proverbs to punctuate this story, no concrete conclusions. The exploration of post-referendum Britain is merely an exploration, not a reasoned argument. He fully admits that his walk did not supply him with answers. I leave the theatre however, feeling the sleepiness of story time and none of the desperation that I have felt since 2016. Instead Walking Towards Ithica provides me with that unusual thing: hope.
This show might have been a one night engagement, but watch this space. As long as a story about Brexit remains relevant (and let’s face it, it’s not going away anytime soon), this performance is one needed on the British stage.
Walking Towards Ithica played on 24 May. For more information, visit the Hull Truck Theatre website.