Sarah Ruhl
An ATC / Drum Theatre Plymouth / Young Vic co-production
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and touring

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After the success of The Brothers Size comes another American play from the same theatrical trio. Yet again this is quite a physical and emotional ride, but this time darker and more complex.

By shifting the focus from legendary singer Orpheus (Osi Okerafor) to his wife Eurydice (Ony Uhiara) the play becomes sadder: both figures are tragic, but Eurydice is more down-to-earth. The modern setting also gives the play stronger feeling. Most of all the melancholy of the play is down to the simplicity and truthfulness of the cast.

The central relationship of the piece is not Eurydice and Orpheus but Eurydice and her father (Geff Francis),with whom she is reunited in the underworld. Uhiara and Francis forge a beautiful relationship in their room of string. Drawing strongly on the idea that the waters of the Styx cause memory loss, there is much childishness and re-education in the underworld.

Water forms an important role, tumbling from above and bubbling up from below through the harsh metal set. Just in terms of the set this is a wonderfully imaginative production, conveying a real sense of texture through the water, metal and string, and with the creepy lighting and sound, it sucks you into a truly disturbing representation of the afterlife.

As a kind of macabre comic relief Hades, Lord of the Underworld (Rhys Rusbatch), is played as a petulant toddler on a little bike. This is not much of a relief though as his advances on Eurydice only add to her torment. The only let up and lightness is added by Francis' charming father as they remember how to sing and dance - far more moving than the tuneful hymns of her husband.

A really original look at death that offers some, but not much, hope.

Peter Lathan reviewed this production in Newcastle. Philip Fisher reviewed the London premiere at the Young Vic.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin

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