Melbourne Fringe: Project Exiles – The Return of a Man Called Ulysses

MF Project Exiles AARProject Exiles: The Return of a Man Called Ulysses, is a compelling work from Jaime Dorner. When he isn’t writing and directing the show, he even finds time to play the character of Ulysses.

A fascinating aspect of the theatre Dorner makes is his bravery in putting so much of himself and his life into it. With Exiles, he takes the classical story of Ulysses long journey home to Ithaca after the Trojan War, and views it through the lens of his own journey and anxieties in moving from his home in Chile to New Zealand and Australia.

An earlier version of Exiles was performed in New Zealand, but this production at Melbourne Fringe bears little resemblance. Gone are almost all the histrionics and most of the meta-moments. Also removed is the character of the lover that Ulysses’ wife has taken in his absence, or rather the actor has been removed. Instead, the lover is now a chorus of four voices fixed in a sinister shape, with sunglasses that give the unsettling impression of Neil Gaiman’s Corinthian.

It’s one of many changes where Dorner shifts the energy of the piece from explosive to focussed: The games between Ulysses and his captor are much more cerebral and compelling; scenes between Ulysses’ son and a suicidal love interest are less frantic and more tender; Ulysses’ traumatic customs experience feels more dangerous and relevant now.

Cast and crew have worked well to present a remarkable new work – ambitious in scope and effective in its performance.

Project Exiles – The Return of a Man Called Ulysses
The MC Showroom, Level 1 – 48 Clifton Street, Prahran
Performance: Thursday 27 September 2018 – 6.30pm
Season: 27 – 30 September 2018 (closed)

Image: Project Exiles – The Return of a Man Called Ulysses – courtesy of Praxi Theatre Group

Review: David Collins