The REP Studio, Birmingham, Thursday 29th October, 2015
Continuing the current fad for Greek mythology, Little Bulb Theatre Company brings to Birmingham their retelling of the Orpheus myth and though a tragedy, this version is a pure and unadulterated delight from start to finish.
We are transported to a theatre/cabaret club in 1930s Paris for a musical evening hosted by Yvette (Eugenie Pastor) and her band. She is a slight, Edith Piaf-like figure with rolling Rs and a belter of a voice. She will play the love interest, she announces, the doomed Eurydice. Appearing as Orpheus is Dominic Conway in the guise of famed guitarist Django Reinhardt, who swaps his lyre for jazz guitar – he is as adept at melodramatic posturing and gesticulations as he is at nimbly noodling on the guitar strings. Other characters are played by the rest of the band. Clare Beresford, Miriam Gould and Shamira Turner make up a chorus of sopranos, when they’re not (and sometimes when they are) playing double bass, violin and accordion respectively. We see them as Furies, as Cerberus the three-headed dog and all sorts of supernumeraries. Alexander Scott is an imposing Hades with his illuminated crown and searing clarinet, while percussionist Tom Penn makes a striking Persephone with a countertenor voice that is beautiful in its clarity. On the piano is Charles Penn, providing most of the accompaniment. The music is irresistible. The cast forms a tight jazz combo, with Eugenie Pastor not only belting out the chansons but playing a mean flute into the bargain.
The story itself is presented in dumb show, with plenty of cod ballet and silent-movie type gestures and attitudes. It’s as silly as it is charming and very, very funny. Devised by the company and directed by Hades himself (Alexander Scott) it’s an apparently slight bit of nonsense, a concert with some dressing up and running around. But there’s a reason why the Orpheus myth endures. The power of the love story remains – we must have trust, it says. Without trust, the relationship turns to nothing, in the same way that Eurydice fades when Orpheus is unable to trust that she is still following him out of the underworld.
A fabulous evening of entertainment, a feast for the ears and a work-out for the funny bone, this Orpheus is a gorgeous piece of postmodernist fun, a pastiche that chucks together Piaf, Reinhardt, Debussy, Bach and puppetry and makes it all work wonders.