After Orpheus

Mon 6th – Fri 10th August 2012

reviews

Natasha Tabani

at 01:43 on 7th Aug 2012

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After Orpheus provides us with an intriguing perspective on classical mythology: What happens to Eurydice while she is in the underworld, and does she really want to return to her lover?

The introduction is dynamic; Eurydice is thrust forward out of a babbling, marching chorus. The lights dim and she finds herself alone in the woods surrounded by shadowy Gollum-like demons. In the half-light, they violently rip off her dress and leave her exposed form on the floor.

Most of the scenes are really enjoyable to watch and there are some really funny lines. When questioned about the intensity of her drinking, one of the women of the underworld replies simply, “I do not have a liver to poison!”. Orpheus himself is comically referred to as a modern celebrity – he is just ‘sooo handsome’ and ‘dreamy’. Each woman in the underworld tells her love story and they are all entertaining and unique.

The acting is exceptionally good. Every single character is extremely visceral and many actors are able to change roles with ease. The script itself, however, is a bit inconsistent. At times it is witty and articulate but it often feels a little contrived. In one anecdote, two female characters fall in love and end up joining the army. While this is perfectly plausible, it does feel like the play is reverting to stereotypes and could have been a bit more imaginative.

The description of the play is eloquent and ethereal, but the performance doesn’t quite carry the same weight. The ideas the play explores are mirrored well in its use of dance and poetry but the aesthetic texture of lines such as ‘Can love flow out of death?’ are marred somewhat by the strange and underwhelming ending. Without wanting to spoil anything, the final scene is irksomely ambiguous and seemed to me to undermine the gravitas of the original Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Seeing After Orpheus was an enjoyable experience, but there were a few major issues and minor flaws which detracted from the overall effect of the show.

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Leah Eades

at 10:35 on 7th Aug 2012

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Warning: This review contains spoilers.

If there’s one thing the Fringe is not lacking, it’s student-led classical adaptations. Kentucky-based Centre College’s adaptation of the Orpheus myth, devised and written by the young cast members, was a refreshing and innovative piece of theatre that had a lot of potential. Instead of focusing on Orpheus – the man whose magical musical talents allows him to retrieve his dead bride from Hades on the condition that he does not look back at her until they are back in the world of the living; a condition that he tragically breaks – this adaptation focused on the wife-to-be Eurydice, and presented her in the Underworld as unsure and cynical of the power of love. Can she really trust that she loves a man who can enchant even gods? How much can we ever put our trust in love, and ourselves, and the ones we love?

This theme is explored with humour and pathos, and performed by a strong cast, through the memories of the other women in the Underworld; one by one they bring their past loves to life on stage and then, once re-enacted, drink the Waters of the Lethe in order to obliviate their memories and so allow themselves to be reborn and move on. The other dead women were all from the modern era, but nods to classical production were made throughout the play, such as the masked wedding guests gossiping to create a sense of paranoia, and the classical beasts that assault Eurydice alone in the woods in a genuinely upsetting scene, creating a nice sense of balance. One memory of love was particularly evocative, performed by Thygita Céspedes, as it was conveyed purely through dance and accompanied by jazz music and a love poem, making particularly good use of the space, this production being performed in the round.

Although in many respects an entertaining and promising production, I did feel that the play lacked a decisive ending and sense of fulfilment – it seemed to stop suddenly and abruptly, just as we were on the brink of learning something. We are left wondering: what was the play trying to say? It ends with Eurydice deciding whether or not to follow Orpheus back to the world of the living, as the other characters she has met echo phrases that reflect on the nature of love. Yet no conclusion of sense of understanding seems to be reached. She follows Orpheus back up the ladder because she is pressured to, not through her own volition (the ladder was also a rather clumsy prop that I would rather have done without) and takes a look back… and the play ends. It implies that it is she rather than Orpheus that fails by looking back, which is a little confusing, and her motivations for the movement still felt unclear.

Overall this was a good, solid student production that hit a lot of buttons – but just fell that little bit short in terms of reaching a satisfying conclusion, and needed to be a little bit surer of what it was ultimately trying to say, rather than just exploring a premise.

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