Printable CopyORPHEUS
Adelaide Botanic Gardens - Noel Lothian Hall
Until 04 Mar 2018

Review by Jamie Wright

The tale of Orpheus and his tragic journey to the underworld to find his wife Eurydice is, while perhaps not quite as old as time, does come pretty close – it’s well over two and a half thousand years old at the very least. And it’s been the basis for innumerable adaptations across nearly every possible art form.

Here the Flanagan Collective has set it in modern times: Orpheus becomes ‘Dave’ and Eurydice – okay, Eurydice is still Eurydice. But the fundamental story is the same: boy meets girl, girl dies and is sent to the underworld, boy sets off on an epic journey and faces many perils before finding her. After that – well, I shall avoid spoilers – but it is a tragedy.

The beauty of this production, though, is in the telling. There are two performers – Vince and Phil; the former is the storyteller and the latter, armed with a guitar and a delightful singing voice, is the minstrel. For the most part, Vince tells the story while Phil strums/hums/sings in the background, but at moments throughout the narration stops and Phil just sings. Or, on several occasions, Phil encourages the audience to sing as well – and it’s enchanting.

Alexander Wright’s script – a mix, if my ear does not deceive me, of prose and verse – is delightfully evocative and rich with warmth and humour.

It’s staged so simply – two blocks of seats with a performance space between them – but it works so well; the two performers move back and forth between each end at a pace bordering on hypnotic, and the mesmerism continues when Phil stands in the very centre of it all and spins while playing and singing. For other kinds of stories this might be distracting, but here it’s perfectly in balance and the result is a warm and genuinely engaging performance.

While it’s never spelled out as such, it seems likely that Vince was a last minute replacement – he refers to a script throughout the performance and, while he’s got most of the lines down and is a talented enough performer to carry it off, there is still that very slight diminishment of engagement that you’d get from someone without a book in hand. But the upside to that is that it will get better each performance.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)