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Spellbinding storytelling

Fringe World review: The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre (UK), Orpheus ·
Circus Theatre @ Fringe Central, 20 October ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

This simple, lovely re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is the first you-must-see piece of theatre this Fringe World.

It’s the familiar story, told over millennium in hundreds of versions, of the master musician who dares to bring back his wife back from the dead, and whose failure, and their undying love, explains the bleakness of winter and the colours of spring.

British writer/actor Alexander Wright and musician Phil Grainger make the story modern by the substitution of the ancient Greek hero with Dave, an about-to-be-thirty English lad whose monochrome world bursts into colour when Eurydice walks into the karaoke bar where he’s singing Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”.

Once Eurydice dies and descends into the Underworld, though, the traditional myth takes over, and Wright’s storytelling skills guide us through its caverns, across the river Styx, past the dog Cerberus to the throne of Hades and his queen Persephone, who, moved by his plight, allow him to take Eurydice back to the living world, on one condition.

The rest we know.

Wright, who appears to read his story from an old, leather book, has beautiful emotion spiced with humour and humanity. Grainger, full and gentle, accompanies the story softly on guitar with his sweet songs – and some karaoke thrown in for our pleasure.

The whole effect is inventive and masterfully delivered – much in the style of the Scottish playwright David Greig, whose The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart is a more expansive companion to this work – and it was wonderful to watch the audience (even some who weren’t quite sure why they were there at first) fall under the spell of one of humankind’s greatest, saddest stories.

Let me repeat: a you-must-see production.

Orpheus plays the Circus Theatre at Fringe Central until January 29 and the Belgian Beer Cafe January 30 – February 3.

Pictured top are Alexander Wright and Phil Grainger in ‘Orpheus’.

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