Maxine Peake, Natascha McElhone, Frances Barber and Imogen Stubbs will read sections of The Odyssey, in what is thought will be the first time women have performed the orator role of Homer’s play in its 2,000-year existence.
They will perform passages from Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey, the first by a woman, on beaches that span Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s Atlantic coast.
The Homer epics were first read in 800BC by a single male reciter, known as a Rhapsode, and research has shown that whenever they have been read in this single orator style, it has always been by a man.
The Odyssey performances will take place on nine different beaches at events also serving Greek food and featuring live Greek music.
Liam Browne and Sean Doran, who carried out the research into the play’s history, have curated the events, called Arts Over Borders.
Doran said: “We passionately believe in the power of arts to transcend boundaries, whether geographical, social or political, especially in these crucial border communities as we move towards Brexit.”
Belfast actor Niall Cusack will also perform readings of Homer’s The Iliad in English, Greek and Gaelic, in Derry-Londonderry from August 10 to 12.
Arts Over Borders runs from August 9 to 19 as part of the Lughnasa FrielFest, a festival inspired by the heritage of playwright Brian Friel.
The programme also includes promenade readings of Friel’s Faith Healer, featuring Tamsin Greig, Alex Jennings, Rory Kinnear and Laura Donnelly. They will take place in village halls across Donegal and culminate with the final act being performed in the ballroom of the Highlands Hotel in Glenties, the town where Friel is buried.