Review: Idomeneus (Soulpepper)

The Soulpepper team brings Idomeneus to the Toronto stage with visually stunning staging

Idomeneus, written by Roland Schimmelpfennig and translated by David Tushingham, now the latest Soulpepper production on stage at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, is an intensely mesmerizing hybrid of spoken word and movement set to a stunning cinematic backdrop. It’s a captivating tale brought to life by a chorus that fully embodies the script at hand. But, for me, the visuals are what had me sold.

Idomeneus is the tale of King Idomeneus and his fleet of 80 ships returning home from an agonizing 10-year long Trojan War. A devastating storm descends upon their fleet claiming all but one, the ship that holds King Idomeneus himself.

The backdrop is a ghastly gray concrete wall, the ground is covered in sand. The lighting is stark and harsh. The ensemble wear ragged clothing grayed with age and distress. Gray on their faces and hair. I’m taking this as they are the souls of the fallen — weary from war and now claimed by the sea — who now retell the tale of their demise.

And in their retelling communication breaks down, facts and events get broken and jumbled, discourse and tension arise. When panic of their imminent doom settled in, people acted. Some wanted to act differently, and some went with the flow. Either way, they all wound up at the bottom of the sea. The exploration of the tale makes for a cacophonous jumble of reactions of facts with multiple parts retold several times to get those facts clear. It’s a clear reminder of how humans are bound to act after surviving any tragedy.

Through this tumultuous telling, we learn that King Idomeneus prayed to Poseidon for his safe return to Crete and promised to kill the first man he saw. Unfortunately, that first man was his own son Idamentes, but he saw to fulfill his promise and thus his son is killed. But the rest of the gods, angered at King Idomeneus’ ease in slaying his own son, brought drought and famine to Crete. The Cretans, sensing the connection of Idamentes’ death to the drought, exile Idomeneus to Sicily. Although, this is only one version of this tale.

Though the ensemble do great work in bringing the text to life, playing off one another seamlessly, I found myself still in awe of the visual effects. Set, video and lighting designer Lorenzo Savoini along with costume designer Gillian Gallow have created a visual piece that feels much akin to a number of my favorite horror and thriller movies growing up with many aspects reminding my distinctly of The Blair Witch Project. The final dance of the dead scene is made particularly eerie with added shadows against the backdrop making the stage feel fuller than it actually is.

Idomeneus is enthralling and fun, simply a great night of theatre and definitely worth adding to your night out at the Distillery District.


  • Idomeneus is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane) until March 24, 2018.
  • Performances run Monday through Saturday at 8:00 pm with Saturday matinees at 2:00 pm, additional matinee on Wednesday, March 21.
  • Tickets are $35 to $95 general admission, $35 to $37 for students (ID required)
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at 416 866 8666, or in person at the box office one hour before curtain.
  • Run Time: 1 hour 15 minutes, no intermission
  • Audience Advisory: This performance contains strong language and strobe lighting. Viewer discretion is advised.

Photo of the chorus by Cylla Von Tiedemann