A Herculean Effort

Rating ***

15.20-16.15, C ECA

The classic myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is given a modern twist in Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation, here performed by UCLU Runaground. The tale told is compelling and emotive given that the myth is so well known and the audience fights against the knowledge that this is a story that cannot end happily ever after. The shifted perspective so that Eurydice and her plight becomes the subject of the story rather than her existing merely as the object of Orpheus’ desire, gives a refreshing take on a well-known myth and is told with simplicity.

Melissa Taylor’s performance as the eponymous heroine is the highlight of this production. Flitting wilfully between a childlike naivety and a tortured soul, her depiction of Eurydice is so compelling to watch that tears filled my eyes during the final scene. She is supported by a strong cast, with Rob Thompson’s Lord of the Underworld providing the comedic counterpart (though occasionally verging on the side of the ridiculous) to her more emotional character.

The demarcation of the world of the living and the world of the dead was nicely indicated by the empty door frame positioned in the centre of the stage, but it was inconsistently used, thus breaking down the barrier which is central to the entire storyline. The use of fishing wire around the stage to send the letters between the two states was, however, very effective. The inclusion of physical theatre seemed clunky given the fractured execution and to this end, quite frankly a bit unnecessary. Trying to cram too much into a short performance and a small performance space was really the main criticism; a reduction in the number of actors would probably have been beneficial in this respect.

It is a competent production, but unfortunately in this instance the critiques outweigh the compliments, which is deeply unlucky given the potential that is so evident within the company.


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