Philobiblon: A must-see show in London - Homer!

Monday, March 06, 2006

A must-see show in London - Homer!

There are several ways of getting a political message across in a stage production. You can go for the worthy, straight approach, such as is seen now in The Exonerated, or you can make it an exciting, entertaining evening so delightful that the audience swallows the polemical medicine with glee and sits begging for more.

The latter is the approach taken in David Farr's production of The Odyssey: A Trip Based on Homer's Epic at the Lyric Hammersmith. This is a magic realist Odyssey, set in part in the present day -- the gods deliver the great king Odysseus into the not-so-tender hands of a British immigration detention centre. There, to justify himself and his seeking asylum (although really all he wants is to go home), he has to tell his tale, which takes us on a cheerful romp through ancient myth and theatrical tradition, from the hippie island of the Lotus-Eaters, to the Indonesian shadow puppet-style of the seductress Circe, to the Dr Who style encounter with the lumbering giant Cyclops.

The word "trip" in the title is no accident, for this is a seductively psychedelic production. Sometimes this is direct: the intoxicating lotus flower produces in the immigration centre such gems as "the strip lights, they are wicked, man", but often this is wrapped into the insanity of everyday life. The inhabitants of the centre sing increasingly tall tales of the disasters that brought them there, such as "a giant fish took my sister away", before explaining the sad hyperbole, still in song, "no one believes me whatever I say..."

It is easy to keep piling on the adjectives of praise; for an evening of pure entertainment -- with added thought -- in London tonight, I can't think of anything to better it. The acting, the staging, the profusion of ideas and images, the changes of mood and balance of ideas, all come together in near-perfection. READ MORE


Anonymous Dudley Sharp said...

"The Exonerated" - are any actually innocent?
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

To: Media, throughout the UK

This play/TV movie is presented as a true story of six innocents sent to death row because of corruption within the system.

The Exonerated is a true story just as CATS and The Lion King are.

Reviews of each case.

1) Robert Earl Hayes Nothing about Hayes’ retrial changes the appeals court’s original observation that evidence existed to establish Hayes’ guilt. Hayes has now been convicted of a nearly identical murder in New York, which was committed prior to the murder in Florida. Go to

no. 74 at
and pages 36-39 at

2) Sunny Jacobs -- After the shooting, still at the scene of the murders, a trooper asked Jacobs: "Do you like shooting troopers?" Jacobs response: "We had to."

The best review of the blatant dishonesty of this "Exonerated" case is "The Myth of Innocence", Josh Marquis, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, v 95, No 2, Winter, 2005, Northwestern University School of Law.

Mr. Marquis can be reached at, or 503-791-0012.

There is no evidence to support a claim of innocence for Jacobs in the murder of two police officers in Florida. She eventually pled guilty to two counts of second degree murder and was released for time served, after 16 years. Hardly a finding of innocence.
go to pages 40-46 at

3) David Keaton -- Keaton's defense attorney stated that even without Keaton's numerous confessions, that the eyewitness testimony was likely sufficient to convict Keaton for the capital murder.

Through the testimony of numerous eyewitnesses, Keaton's numerous confessions, as well as those of co-defendants, Keaton was sentenced to death. There is no credible claim for innocence in this case of robbery/murder. The case was overturned on appeal. The prosecution chose not to re prosecute for a number of good reasons -- 1. he was no longer subject to the death penalty, because of changes in the law 2. Keaton was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a robbery that he committed ten days prior to the robbery/murder for which he was sentenced to death and 3. illness of witnesses.

Keaton was sentenced to death in 1971, under the old death penalty law. He was on death row for 13 months when the US Supreme Court overturned all death penalty cases in Furman v Georgia.

Read pages 60-68 at

4) Delbert Tibbs -- The Florida Supreme Court candidly conceded that it should not have reversed Tibbs' conviction since the evidence was legally sufficient.

The state prosecutor who chose not to retry Tibbs recently explained to the Florida Commission on Capital Crimes that Tibbs “was never an innocent man wrongfully accused. He was a lucky human being. He was guilty, he was lucky and now he is free."
See no.10 at
and pages 134-138 at

5) Kerry Max Cook -- The judge, in accepting Cook's no contest plea, said that Cook was guilty of the crime and that the state was capable of proving its case.

This is not a DNA exoneration case.

Mr. Cook was convicted of the murder of Linda Jo Edwards, who was found in her apartment on June 10, 1977, beaten on the head with a plaster statue, stabbed in the throat, chest and back and sexually mutilated. Mr. Cook was arrested 2 months later where he worked as a bartender in Port Arthur. Officers said they found Mr. Cook's fingerprint on Ms. Edwards' apartment door. At first he denied knowing Ms. Edwards. Cook lied. He later said they met at the apartment complex's swimming pool and he went to her apartment. His original conviction resulting in a death sentence was overturned because of prosecutorial misconduct. A 1992 retrial ended in a hung jury. He was again convicted and sentenced to death in 1994. That verdict was overturned in 1996. Before a 4th trial, Mr. Cook pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of murder. He was sentenced to 20 years time served. Mr. Cook took the deal so he could avoid a possible return to death row. By taking the plea, both Cook and his attorneys conceded that this is hardly a case where there is no evidence for guilt and certainly not a case with confirmable actual innocence.

for more on this case, contact David Dobbs at

6) Gary Gauger -- Gauger confessed to the murder of his parents. That confession was thrown out based upon the lack of probable cause to arrest him. Gauger's ex-wife and children filed a wrongful death suit against Gauger in the murder of his parents. Gary's brother remains so convinced of Gary's guilt in the murders of their parents, that he has prepared a review of the case which claims to support Gary's guilt, even though there are now two other people jailed for the murders.

Furthermore, the trial court erroneously imposed a death sentence. The court granted a motion for reconsideration and vacated the sentence less than ten months later in September 1994. The trial court found that it had not considered all the mitigating evidence and concluded that Gauger should not be sentenced to death. People v. Bull, 705 N.E.2d 824, 843 (Ill. 1999); Chicago Tribune (9/23/94). Gauger served a brief time on death row. He was not properly sentenced to death by the trial court. He should never have been sent to death row because the trial court did not finally sentence him to be executed. Gauger’s case is an example of how consideration of mitigating evidence under current law results in a sentence less than death.
see no. 69 at

Some additonal articles:

"Cross-Examination for a Drama That Puts the Death Penalty on Trial", Adam Liptak, New York Times, January 27, 2005

"Prosecutors take exception to Court TV film", Richard Willing, USA TODAY, 1/24/05

"The Myth of Innocence:Don’t believe everything you see on CourtTV", Joshua Marquis, National Review, 1/27/05

Are audiences being duped to further a political/social agenda? Of course. And theater critivcs? They simply don't bother to fact check and blindly accept and repeat whatever the producers tell them.

Only one theater critic, Tom Sime of the Dallas Morning News, bothered to see if the claims were true. His brief review resulted in this published comment: "Maybe three are actually innocent and three actually aren't. In any case, blind faith - in the criminal justice process or in the truth of crusading art- is best left at home."

"The Exonerated" is striclty a bit of anti-death penalty deception, which is not at all surprising. It appears that the Soros Foundation, through their Open Society Institute (OSI) is the primary benefactor of "The Exonerated" . The Soros Foundation finances anti death penalty efforts, worldwide.

As their website states: "The Exonerated—a new documentary play produced by The Culture Project a grantee of OSI's Criminal Justice Initiative and Arts Initiative—focuses on the stories of six innocent men and women who spent years on death row before being set free thanks to new evidence and emerging DNA technology." from

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail, 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, BBC and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

3/06/2006 08:09:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...

The abolition of the death penalty [the cold-blooded execution of an individual that (through incarceration) no longer poses a threat to society] is one of the great benchmarks of human civilisation.

America. D-. Must try harder.

Clanger was once interviewed live on Southern Counties Radio in between Mr. Blair and Mr. Prescott.

He has written extensively on the importance of chocolate in modern society, and the erotic consequences of massage.

3/07/2006 02:34:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I assume the two points in the last sentence are related? Sounds tasty.

3/07/2006 05:05:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...

Clanger advises the use of warm coconut oil rather than Green and Black for the 'chest lift'.

There is a (grammatically-challenged) description online here:

The melted chocolate comes later.

3/07/2006 07:28:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Yes, I can see chocolate might be a bit messy at this stage. Maybe coconut oil with a touch of lemongrass would be nicely invigorating.

3/07/2006 11:32:00 pm  
Blogger clanger said...

Mmmh. Sounds like a plan. But tonight I am staying in to catalogue my Comenius. ;-)

3/07/2006 11:51:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

And I have to follow the trail of one of his disciples, Bathsua Makin ... pity ;-)

3/08/2006 12:03:00 am  
Blogger clanger said...

I hadn't heard of her: fascinating.

I would dispute the 'most women were illiterate at this time' bit. Literacy may have been, selectively, a lot higher than people think (excepting rural areas, many of which may have retained illiteracy for a good while longer).

True, male literacy was higher for cultural reasons in many social groups, perhaps considerably so for Latin, but I think urban female literacy was a lot higher than is traditionally assumed. The ratio will differ across different groups: urban/rural, class, religion, occupation, perhaps dramatically.

Work needs to be done in the field of book ownership signatures, esp. devotionals, male/female ratios etc. Also in the concept of 'practical literacy'. To what extent do literate males who didn't read m/any books count in the stats for the standard 'readership' of different types of books?

Not wholly convinced regarding will signatures by expiry date as evidence of literacy for a variety of reasons. The date of signing needs to be checked (very sick people couldn't sign), as does the age. If you lived a lot longer, you were il/literate in different decades.

Literacy is often linked to education, which we are uncertain of. It might sometimes be more usefully linked to commerce.

At some point, protestantism, trade, literacy, and urbanisation may have just exploded in England and the United Provinces.

You might enjoy investigating Joanna Baillie (1762-1851) "a modest Scottish woman living in Hampstead" and the preface to the first volume of her 'A Series of Plays' (1798). The dramatic equivalent of the preface to 'Lyrical Ballads', but it came *first*.

3/08/2006 10:11:00 am  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

I'd agree with you entirely on illiteracy. In fact I think our definitions here have to be entirely different to those commonly applied. I'd posit that in London, certainly by the start of the 16th-century, at least 80 per cent of women could "participate in literate culture".

There was not the literate/illiterate divide that we want to apply. First, many people were taught to read, but not write, so there's not going to be any physical evidence left of their ability.

(And as you say wills were usually made when people were more or less on their deathbed, so they might be too ill to write, or else while they might have been able to write when younger, they had lost the skill.)

But even if you couldn't read yourself, you could listen to the ballad sellers singing out their wares in the street, so you knew what the broadsides said; you might regularly hear, if you were a waiting woman or more humble domestic servant, your mistress or master reading from the Bible or other texts ("reading" then was usually done aloud, something we find it hard to get our head around).

To keep in touch with relatives in the country you might get someone to write a letter for you, then you might get someone to read the reply.

So you had access to literacy, even if not literate yourself, and many people must have thus picked up a smattering - maybe not to be confident readers, but able to puzzle something out if they really needed to.

3/08/2006 11:53:00 am  
Blogger clanger said...

'Access to literacy' is a good phrase.

I've never got my head around the idea that people could read but not write. Modern comparisons may be helpful.

My gut reaction is that 80% is high for any traditional concept of literacy BUT it depends on the population mix, and 80% access to literacy would be feasible.

I'm not sure we have data that we can get a statistic from on this, and comments in diaries, journals, and letters may be useful, when they are incidental, and not used as evidence to persuade.

From ownership inscriptions, I'm increasingly leaning towards the view that some types of books were read typically by women, and others by men. This links the development/profusion of certain types of printed works to gender ratios in literacy.

But just to be difficult, plenty of men owned 18thC novels, the one area usually offered up as female reading territory!

3/08/2006 12:47:00 pm  

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