As portrayed in Homer's Odyssey, Penelope - wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy - has become a symbol of wifely duty and devotion, enduring twenty years of waiting when her husband goes off to fight in the Trojan War. As she fends off the attentions of a hundred greedy suitors, travelling minstrels regale her with news of Odysseus' epic adventures around the Mediterranean - slaying monsters and grappling with amorous goddesses.
When Odysseus finally comes home, he kills her suitors and then, in an act that served as little more than a footnote in Homer's original story, inexplicably hangs Penelope's twelve beloved maids. Now, Penelope and her chorus of wronged maids get the chance to tell their side of the story, through song, dance and storytelling in a new stage version by Margaret Atwood of her own novel. The (as yet unconfirmed) all female cast will comprise actors from Canada and the UK.
Having studied performing arts at Barking College of Technology, Josette Bushell-Mingo launched her career as an actress care of Kaboodle Theatre Exchange, an avant garde company with which she worked for three years.
She has also spent seasons with People Show, Manchester Royal Exchange, the Young Vic, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National, as well as working internationally in Sweden and Germany, clocking up a diverse range of credits from A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Peer Gynt, Women of Troy, Elvis and, in the West End, The Vagina Monologues.
In 1999, Bushell-Mingo originated the role of Rafiki in the West End production of Disney’s The Lion King, for which she was Olivier-nominated. In 2001 she co-founded Push, a multi-disciplinary Black-led arts organisation with the aim of inspiring diversity and promoting more Black artists into mainstream British arts. Bushell-Mingo’s directorial credits also include The Birds, Mother Courage and Her Children and Simply Heavenly. She was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours in 2006 (See News 19 Jun 2006).
- by Caroline Ansdell