Fringe Review: Orpheus

Two North Yorkshire guys stand in a garden full of acacias and melaleucas. The skinny one holds a battered leather notebook; the big, beefy guy holds a guitar.  Together, they retell a story two millennia old.

By
Greek tragedy brought into the 21st Century by master troubadours
Overall
5

Reviewed in the Sunken Garden at Holden Street Theatres on 16 February 2019

Presented by Joanne Hartstone, The Flanagan Collective & Gobbledigook Theatre & Holden Street Theatres

Two North Yorkshire guys stand in a garden full of acacias and melaleucas. The skinny one holds a battered leather notebook; the big, beefy guy holds a guitar.  Together, they retell a story two millennia old. We are so transfixed by the sheer truthfulness and clarity of their bardic performance that we have scarcely marked the passing of time, except for the tears and laughter their work evoked.

This outdoor setting works perfectly for the story of a man besotted with a wood nymph, Eurydice. Alex Flanagan-Wright speaks the poetic text. Words shimmer and bounce, fizzle and bang. Sometimes it’s metrical, sometimes it rhymes, but always it has an inherent rhythm.  This rhythmic pulse is shared by guitarist and singer Phil Grainger. He has an acoustic guitar, a killer voice and an unerring sense of theatrical pace, using subtle dynamic shifts of singing and playing as a constant text lubricant. The whole show is acoustic. Not a mic in sight.  We get the unparalleled impact of embodied, emotionally truthful human voice, and both Grainger and Flanagan-Wright know just how to serve it up.

The story of Orpheus, updated to a 21st century Northern English social context, has Dave living his life in adult greyness until Eurydice comes through the door of his local karaoke bar. The spoken text is rapid, vigorous and dynamic – reminiscent of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood in its multi-layered breadth of references, as metaphors pile atop each other and word pictures crackle into life for a second, only to be replaced with another picture, or with an authoritative silence.  All the tell-tale tools of the storyteller are on display here, and they compel us to enter the story and empathise with Dave, his diffidence, his unfulfilled dreams and his epic journey to reclaim love.

Flanagan-Wright and Grainger are both consummate actors, and, in subtle and complementary ways, built theatrical magic. I laughed. I cried. I loved it.

Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson

Venue:  Holden Street Theatres – The Sunken Garden
Season:  16th February – 16th March, 2019
Duration:  70 minutes
Tickets:  $25 / $22

 

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