Last updated on March 12th, 2021
The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice might be a “sad, sad story of woe” but the Little Bulb Theatre version at the Battersea Arts Centre is anything and everything but sad. It’s hammy, funny, moving, silly and utterly brilliant.
The epic Greek myth of Orpheus descending into hell to collect his wife, Eurydice, has been re-imagined into a 1930s Parisian jazz café with flashbacks to Arcadian scenes and to the more sinister Underworld. Yvette Pépin (Eugénie Pastor) is an Edith Piaf starlet, whilst her love interest is the Jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt (Dominic Conway). It’s a play within a play as Pépin and Conway re-enact the tale of the ill-fated lovers with some twists that will have you laughing your head off.
The duo are supported by a troupe of operatic singers who also happen to play the violin, the accordion and the double bass. They also show prancing prowess in the guise of animals, nymphs and furies. And I must mention the hilarious, deadpan performances of Tom Penn as Persephone and Alexander Scott on clarinet with his devilish side-duties as Hades.
Orpheus was developed for the Battersea Grand Hall and ran in 2013 and 2014 before touring the UK and internationally, including a run at the Royal Opera House, the Salzburg Festival and the Brisbane Festival. It has now returned to its home, the Grand Hall, which has recently re-opened after a 2015 fire which destroyed it.
With echoes of Midnight in Paris, this could be a Woody Allen play, and I half-expected F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali and Josephine Baker to make an appearance. But there’s also some Disney’s Fantastia thrown-in to the mix with Greek pastoral scenes and some psychedelic appearances from a dancing bear, a bunny, a pig, and a donkey. Add a dash of silent movie-style acting, and what you get is a unique, bonkers and devilishly good evening.
The Grand Hall is set up with cabaret tables, and it is possible to order drinks, cheese and charcuterie. You won’t be shushed for coming in and out of the performance – it’s a free-flowing dine-watch-laugh and even dance, as some audience members couldn’t resist a little Charleston step during last night’s performance. Expect a raucous jazzy evening with some Bach, Monteverdi, Edith Piaf and Debussy on the menu and a big standing ovation to finish. Go see. I promise you’ll thank me.
Orpheus is on until 30 December.
Whilst you’re at the Battersea Arts Centre
Look for a hidden door behind a curtain. You’ll find a lion’s head through which you can put your hand. I won’t say more, but a wonderful secret awaits you.
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