Orpheus and Eurydice, Bristol Old Vic

TEN years from conception to debut onstage, involving 140 players from all over the Bristol area, this is true community theatre. Starting with the god Orpheus being discovered by his foster parents in Leigh Woods at the same time as Eurydice is being born in Southmead Hospital, we are taken on a journey in modern times through the lives of this couple from children to their 18th birthday, when their relationship changes forever as they discover true love.

In this modern section we are introduced to a long list of characters who are readily identifiable as their counterparts in the Greek myths of Orpheus and Eurydice. Many, particularly the younger members of the cast, captured the mystical qualities in this constant search for love, truth and loyalty.

The running theme was of individuals coming forward isolated to tell, with great sincerity, what love means to them personally, and it struck chords with many in the audience.

Throughout the first act director Lisa Gregan manoeuvred her vast army of players to great effect, making excellent use of Anna Orton’s expertly designed all-purpose set, enhanced by Imogen Senter’s often dramatic lighting plot and writer Adam Peck’s distinctive interpretation of the story.

But it was in the second act, as Orpheus descended into the underworld in an attempt to rescue Eurydice, that saw the characters and the storyline bubble into full life, with all the young groups of players involved creating memorable sets of characters. And players like Elijah Bangura, Jasper Verinder and Khadijah Sawyers, bringing some very welcome comedy to proceedings as the guardians to the entrance to Hades as Cerberus the three-headed dog.

Even with a the support of such a big company, with actors ranging in age and experience from seven to 70, a tremendous burden of responsibility fall on those cast as Orpheus and Eurydice. If Jake Rayner Blair and Shelena Artman had lacked the theatrical skills, stamina and concentration to sustain two such exacting roles, the show would have struggled for life. Although Jake and Shelena, and the rest of the company, would have undoubtedly relished a longer run, especially after the regular rousing reception they received after each performance, it was wise to restrict the run to three days. The amount of emotion that this pair and others, among them Rivers Gitsham Mair and Ta’vayah Ancel as the young Orpheus and Eurydice, put into their performances would be unsustainable over a long period, no matter how young and fit the actors.

As it is, they can now add their time on the stage of this charismatic theatre to their store of loving memories, or if they are hoping to pursue a stage career use it, remembering that not everything in the production, or their performances was perfect, as an experience to treasure and build on.


Posted in Reviews on .