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Orpheus

Little Bulb Theatre
Little Bulb Theatre
Liverpool Everyman

Classical mythology has always been fertile ground for adaptation be it on the stage, page or on canvas. With characters often as huge as the challenges they face, myths and legends have a timeless, enduring quality. Add a generous dollop of escapism and it’s easy to see why these ancient stories remain as popular as ever.

Little Bulb Theatre Company's version of the Orpheus myth follows hot on the heels of the Everyman’s recent production of The Odyssey. While Simon Armitage’s work was recognisably a stage play, Little Bulb’s production is a somewhat more… eclectic offering.

There are elements of dance, ballet, opera, music hall and mime as well as a fusion of styles borrowed from the worlds of revue and variety.

In our modern world of branding and reputation, it’s certainly a brave move for the Everyman to associate itself with an unknown quantity such as this. Even more so given there’s more than a touch of the Footlights about this production. But herein lies a problem: what counts for funny among fellow students is far from guaranteed to translate as well into the professional arena.

Comedy is a hard trade to master. Proficiency only comes over many years, decades. Watching this production of Orpheus does at times feel as if one is watching the apprentices earning their spurs.

Some titters are heard during the show, but I’d wager not nearly as many as in the SU bar. Fortunately Liverpool theatre folk are nothing if not an understanding bunch, and they try their level best to get the humour. It ain’t easy though. The serpent which assails Eurydice is good for a titter, but not much else.

Indeed, many of the gestures, nods and winks are thrown away a little too cheaply. And without the recourse to dialogue, sometimes the lack of humour is cruelly exposed. Repetition is not such a bad thing, but one can’t help but feel that once the main parameters have been established, there’s not too many places this production can go to.

Having said that the standard of musicianship is clearly very high. I’d be more than happy paying to watch these guys do a straight music gig. The problem really starts when the mimes and sketches kick in. Yes, there’s one or two giggles such as the fleeting appearance of a French poodle, but generally the laughter here is almost entirely of the polite kind.

If you had happened to chance upon this Orpheus in a pub theatre you’d no doubt be charmed. The performers certainly enthuse their show with oodles of energy and vitality. Theatre however does not live on enthusiasm alone. This is the kind of show crying out for a steady hand, one of the older, experienced variety.

In the final analysis, this production of Orpheus is just not as funny as both it and the audience would like it to be. Sophomoric springs to mind. There’s a time and a place for everything. Sadly, the Everyman stage was just not that place.

Reviewer: David Sedgwick