(1) A Greek epic poem, attributed to Homer describing the ten-year homeward wanderings of Odysseus after the fall of Troy.
(2) An extended adventurous voyage or trip.
(3) An intellectual or spiritual quest.
(4) A dramatic presentation featuring multi-media techniques.
The Odyssey Dramatic Presentation® has been developed over many years and is currently on type 7. It all began as a child, my first presentation was at the age of 7 with a ‘Show & Tell’ at school. I think the teacher thought that it would be about 10—15 mins of me standing in front of a class with a sheet of paper and a single object. I decided to speak about astronomy and brought with me a telescope, eyepieces, star charts, globes and various space related items. I demonstrated the use of the telescope including how to project the Sun, and included a small piece about Galileo’s observations in 1609/10. I utilized the blackboard and didn’t use notes. It was about an hour long and took up the whole lesson! Not quite sure what the teacher made of it all—certainly it was not what she was expecting.
With a lot of interests I attended lectures by various people: teachers, scientists, professors etc. and realised that although the subject matter was very interesting, this was often spoiled by poor presentation. In fact many people were turned off from a subject simply because it was presented in a dull way. I wanted to change this, and an opportunity came when, at school, I was asked to prepare a slide presentation about astronomy. I introduced the presentation with music—using a portable record player! I also dressed in clothing that was more interesting rather than drab tweed. I included props—a telescope, eyepieces, charts etc and ensured there was some humour in there to break up the technical element. Following this I was asked to present the same lecture to a group of adults at a community centre—my speaking career began at that moment.
To distinguish my style of presentation from others it was important to give it a label. I chose ‘Odyssey’. I had read Homer’s epic poem and the term had inspired titles for the book ‘Mars Odyssey’ and the film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. It seemed highly appropriate as I wanted to take the audience on a voyage of discovery with various events taking place along the way.
Over the years the presentations have progressed. In the beginning it was a chaotic situation using a portable record player, with special notes for an operator to play the right sound effects on cue. This soon changed to a cassette player where the music and sound effects could be pre-recorded with a remote control switching it on and off. There has always been a problem in that the technology to achieve what I wanted was either not available or not affordable. I have developed the style as technology has become accessible and in January 2015 the next generation of ‘Odyssey’ will come on stream.
There was also the issue that many people and organisations did not grasp the concept of an ‘Odyssey Dramatic Presentation®’, and even today after over thirty years many still find the style a unique experience.
Facts about Odyssey Dramatic Presentations®
The presentation booked most is ‘Titanic The Return of A Dream’. This presentation has been performed just over twice as many times as any other. Like all presentations it is regularly updated and improved. It is currently at version 19.
‘The Grand Tour of the Solar System’ is one of the earliest presentations still performed. It has undergone many updates as scientific knowledge has improved. Currently it is at version 42 . In the first version of the presentation back in the 1970s artwork was used to depict details of the planets, with few images of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and no close-up images at all of Uranus, and Neptune.
Presentations about the planet Mars are constantly being updated as more and more spacecraft arrive at the planet. The point has been reached where there are so many images to choose from it is difficult to choose the best.
Due to Odyssey having exclusive access to certain image collections, only by attending an Odyssey Dramatic Presentation® can these images be seen in presentations relating to Avery’s, Birmingham at War, Metro-Cammell and Soho Foundry. Unique research into the Lunar Society’s astronomical activities, and the life of William E. Hipkins also provide exclusive copywrited material.
New presentations take around 18 months to create from conception to first performance. Following research and the sourcing of images and film, the presentation takes around 150 hours to set-up. The presentation is then constantly updated as new information and new techniques become available.
A feature of Odyssey Presentations is the animated sequences. The bombing sequence in When the Lights Went Out is the most complex with over 200 elements, 35 sound effects which took 27 hours to prepare on two slides.
Props and costumes play an important part of an Odyssey Dramatic Presentation, a large collection of costumes is stored and these include a replica spacesuit! All periods are covered including 18th century, Victorian, World War 1, Gothic style as well as somewhat more fanciful styles.
The sourcing of props is a time consuming event. Model building can take many weeks. The Odyssey of Tommy Atkins contains the highest number of props and costume pieces. Tommy wears all the relevant clothing between 1914 and 1918 including 4 types of hats (5 if you include his captured German pickelhaube).
The Duo Performance Van Helsing includes period props including a genuine Victorian Vampire Hunter's kit, and Communion set.
Technical advice is always important. British and German military experts have provided advice for the first and second world war presentations. A Catholic Priest and Jesuit scholar provided advice for Van Helsing. Sound recording and mixing advice has been provided by sound expert Clive Atkins.