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Eurydice

Sarah Ruhl
Young Vic/ATC/Drum Theatre Plymouth Co-Production
Young Vic Maria Studio
(2010)

Production photo

Young American Sarah Ruhl is not yet known in London but having received a Tony Best Play nomination earlier in the week for the shockingly ironic (or is that ironically shocking?) In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play, it may not be too long before she becomes a darling of the avant-garde over here.

Eurydice is a heady mix of Greek Tragedy and contemporary New York comedy. It showcases Miss Ruhl as a poetic playwright given to wild stretches of imagination.

Bijan Sheibani, who had such a great hit at the Young Vic with Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brothers Size, once again starts simply but, helped by designer Patrick Burnier, creates some incredible effects that seem impossible for a setting in the round.

At different times, a fountain emerges centrestage, the heroine is transported into the Underworld in the midst of dazzling strobe lighting and more simply, a room is created with a ball of orange string.

Within the squared space, Ony Uhiara gives a really moving performance as the gauche young bookworm who falls for a heavenly musician, Osi Okerafor as Orpheus.

Their wedding celebrations have not even ended before the bride is enticed away by a Nasty Interesting Man (sic) played by Rhys Rusbatch who also doubles as a spoilt brat Lord of the Underworld.

Having died and reached her destination, the newlywed is reunited with her dead Father (Geff Francis), whom she does not recognise.

The core of the play sees the pair learning to communicate, with Eurydice effectively regressing to the point where she has to learn her new role and (anti-)life from scratch, with the two actors extremely well drilled to touch the audience's collective heart, before Orpheus arrives and attempts to rescue his love.

Here, Sarah Ruhl allows the metaphors to become more apparent, as a wife-daughter feels an invisible battle between the man who begot her and the one who was destined to take on the protector role later in life. All this is observed and commented upon by a tripartite chorus of rather bitchy stones!

Since Eurydice is a play that challenges and the excellent production makes great efforts to eschew naturalism, this may not be everybody's cup of tea. However, for those who like to exercise the brain cells while watching a well-acted spectacle, a trip to the Young Vic is highly recommended.

Playing until 5 June

This production was reviewed by Seth Ewin in Edinburgh and by Peter Lathan in Newcastle

Reviewer: Philip Fisher