Offering an alternative voice

Holly Armstrong (left) as Eurycleia, Bonwa Mbontsi as Odysseus and Nicola Oelofse as the title character, in Penelope.


A NOVEL piece of dance theatre set to music composed by Christopher Dugan and featuring choreography by Bonwa Mbontsi, under the direction of Lynn Chemaly, is to be presented in March at The Theatre – St Anne’s College in Hilton

Titled Penelope, the work, inspired by the Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, is scheduled for performances at 7.30 nightly from Monday to Thursday, March 20 to 23.

Admission is R60 a head (R40 concessions) and booking is by phoning 033 343 6100 or mailing

The work centres on Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, running a kingdom for 20 years while her husband is off fighting the Trojan War – not a simple business.

She must bring up her wayward son, face down scandalous rumours and keep more than one hundred lustful, greedy, bloodthirsty suitors at bay.

“Margaret Atwood, in her novel The Penelopiad, recounts the story of Penelope by giving her an alternative voice, as compared to her male-documented history, a voice in stark contrast to the traditional tale” says a spokesman.

“Historically, Penelope is lauded as the essential ‘good woman’: the faithful and loyal wife, domestic, pious, humble and resourceful. She is hailed as the ‘example’ all women should follow.

Holly Armstrong (left) as Eurycleia and Nicola Oelofse as the title character, in Penelope.

“Atwood, in her retelling, gives us a strongly feminist insight into aspects of Penelope’s life that are unaccounted for. We see the exploitation she suffers as a princess, where her value is the sum total of her family’s wealth and position.

“We see the extent of her loneliness as she battles to save her home, her son and her people, and the final devastation, brought on by her own husband and son, in their hanging of her 12maids, whom she has raised as her daughters.

“Atwood explores two chief factors in women’s history; firstly, women’s value as only connected to male private and public property and ownership; and secondly, how all women, but particularly those marginalised through poverty, slavery and war, have no intrinsic value; they can be sold, traded, bullied, raped, abused, killed and ‘parcelled out as plunder’ without consequence. They are worthless.”

Excerpts from Atwood’s writing from The Penelopiad form the narration of the story in the production.

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