Greek legend narrative magic with the prequel to "Orpheus"
Reviewed at Holden Street Theatres on 17 February 2019
Presented by Joanne Hartstone, The Flanagan Collective & Gobbledigook Theatre & Holden Street
From the pens of Alex Flanagan-Wright (text and lyrics) and Phil Grainger (music) comes this new show, prequel to their magnificent Orpheus. The rich mélange of prose, poetry-slam rhythms and language games referencing both classical and contemporary writing which characterise Flanagan-Wright’s script are again present. The Greek myth of oak nymph Eurydice is told from her viewpoint. For those of the audience who had already seen their Orpheus, its plot dovetails elegantly and effortlessly into this new writing. We are privileged to see the premiere performance of this new two-hander.
Like Orpheus, the venue is The Sunken Garden, a secluded outdoor space which is part of Holden Street’s list of venues. Actors Serena Manteghi and Casey Jane Andrews chat informally with audience members as they arrive, establishing both rapport and a relaxed-casual ambience. Two books lie on the stage in the centre of a circle of seats. The show starts as the two women pick the books up and begin to tell the story. It follows the life of Leni (as Eurydice prefers to be called) from the age of 5 years through to her reunion with Orpheus in the Underworld, and the choices she makes. Flanagan-Wright’s narrative meditates on modern-day gods and super-heroes; he concludes that we now view Harry Potter, Wolverine or Daenerys Targaryen much as our ancestors may have revered Apollo, Ceres, Orpheus, and Aristaeus.
For all its philosophic base, the narrative thrust is irresistible, with the actors maintaining an unrelenting pace. As Leni grows, lives through school, meets Aristaeus, falls in love with him, marries him and is estranged from him, the story is told through poetic prose and verse, both spoken and sung. Manteghi and Andrews share the storytelling, with Manteghi carrying the lion’s share of the narrative weight. Music helps drive the story; unobtrustive acoustic guitar (played by composer Phil Grainger or Casey Jane Andrews), a sample pad which Andrews plays, and a short Vocoder vocal effect on mic. Apart from this, the whole show is unplugged, showcasing Manteghi’s unflagging, flexible voice and commanding presence. Andrews brings equal strength and a nuanced warmth to her characters. Together, they embody the equally terrible inevitabilities of Greek myth and modern relationships.
“We need to let go of the stories we think define us.” This assertion anchors Flanagan-Wright’s elegant take on Eurydice. If its first showing has this level of integrity, energy and narrative elegance, this Eurydice will have a long life.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Venue: Holden Street Theatres – The Sunken Garden
Season: 17th February – 16th March, 2019
Duration: 70 minutes
Tickets: $25 / $22