REVIEW: Orpheus, Adelaide Fringe 2018

Originally published in Glam Adelaide

There’s something sort of comforting about Orpheus. It’s like a hot cup of a tea at the end of a big, seedy night out. This modern adaptation of the ancient Greek legend weaves dirty pubs, backstreets and karaoke into the fearful Underwood of Hades. It’s simple in its concept, and features a great selection of music and songs that lift the audience’s hearts. This is a sweet story told with a lot of heart and gumption, though it does stray into cliché and cloying sweetness to truly nail the emotional breadth of the tale of the doomed lovers.

Staged at the Noel Lothian Hall (a really versatile space that has hosted some extraordinary works over the years), Orpheus retells the original myth as a modern verse poem about a lad (inexplicably called “Dave”) and the colourful naiad Eurydice who brings his monochrome existence to life when they meet in a karaoke bar. It is a neat update, but unfortunately, the verse poem written by Alexander Wright relies too much on repetition and clichés to actually delve into the intricacies of the characters. The biggest misstep is preserving the Female Muse stereotype rather than subverting or examining it, as Eurydice is only represented as a manic-pixie-dream-girl rather than a character with agency and ambition. Think 500 Days of Summer mixed with Once, with all the character development of the latter taken out.

The true joy in this piece is found in the music, which underscores the entire piece with thought and care. Phil Grainger’s voice is gorgeous, and his guitar-playing even more so. The songs are gentle, providing the emotional resonance to each section with a lightness that ties this production together.

Orpheus has a lot of great potential, with its novel format and fantastic music. The content, while relying uncomfortably on stereotypes, is strongly written and delivered with gumption. This is a simple show with a big beating heart.

3 stars out of 5.

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