Book and lyrics by Marcus Stevens Music by Oran Eldor
Steven M Levy and Vaughan Williams
Charing Cross Theatre
This lively new musical is a retelling of the story of Persephone and Hades, the God of the Underworld: the tale that set up the seasons. The pre-show request to turn phones off which addresses the audience with “hey mortals!” sets the tone and what follows is as much High School musical as Greek myth.
Persephone is the daughter of agricultural deity Demeter who spurns her relations on Olympus to take care of Earth’s fertility. Her mother expects her to join her in her support of Earth but Persephone is a teenager more interested in glitzy Olympus and wants to discover the high life and claim her own “place in the Pantheon” as her first solo announces.
That’s how she meets Hades on a break from the Underworld. He’s a leather-clad Rock God with a sexy strut and a red-topped haircut whom she finds dazzling and, when her meddling aunt Aphrodite ensures Hades finds her just as fetching, they get carried away until he realises they have gone down to the Underworld from which for mere mortals there is no return. How is mother Demeter going to get her back? And does Persephone want to go back anyway? With inherited talents, she’s even making an Underworld garden!
The numbers are lively, nearly non-stop and, at first belted out by both principals and chorus, so loud and energetic they are barely comprehensible but when Daniella Bowen’s Demeter takes action doing “What Mothers Have to Do”, the message comes cross boldly and clearly.
The numbers come fast and furious much in the same style but director Sarah O’Gleby slows down the whirl of her edgy choreography for “Beauty in Darkness”, a romantic duet for Georgie Westall’s rebellious Persephone and love-smitten Hades (Michael Mather making a striking, big-voiced stage debut), who is not really the bad boy his family have made him act out.
Genevieve McCarthy is a strident Aphrodite, all bling and bitch, but Tim Oxbrow’s Zeus can still pull rank on her—and all the rest of them. This high-energy show also keeps its ensemble constantly active including cameo roles such as ferryman Charon and the Underworld’s head gardener.
With Jamie Platt’s lighting, Lee Newby uses a minimalist design of hanging gauze strips to great effect, puts the ensemble in grey tracksuits with black half-kilts that giving just a touch of the antique and allow quick changes and then dazzles with colourful Olympians.
Like the original myth, this story can carry a message but it its aimed at giving its audience a good time. Marcus Steven’s lyrics (when you can hear them) are light-hearted and often funny and Oran Eldor’s score carries you with it, though not instantly hummable. This is a non-stop ninety minutes that would be nonsensical if it weren’t done with such conviction.
It’s fun that you don’t have to bring a brain to, but if you already know your classical stories there may be an added savour in seeing how the myth has been reworked in Mythic.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton