Pros: The evening is awash with music, dancing, acting and singing. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. Beautiful to watch!
It is perhaps pertinent to mention that this is the second run of Little Bulb’s Orpheus in the Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall. After a thoroughly successful Spring 2013 run the production is back and on excellent form in the ‘Gods, Myths and Legends’ Season, which has been delicately curated by BAC’s creative team.
Little Bulb’s imagination is extraordinary, as in this production they successfully combine the early twentieth century French jazz scene with the classic antiquity tale of Orpheus’s journey into the underworld to retrieve his wife Eurydice. Using Django Reinhardt – the famous musician – as the chief protagonist, the show’s main man is a character within a character. Dominic Conway does an excellent job of portraying Reinhardt’s creative aloofness and charisma (particularly with the ladies – trust me); he switches flawlessly throughout the show into the more emotional Orpheus, who performs the Greek myth to heart-breaking effect. The same can be said of Eugenie Pastor, whose Yvette Pépin is funny and charismatic but whose Eurydice is so very tender. Not wishing to ignore the other few members of the ensemble, the Triplettes de L’Antiquite, the Actor Stage Hands, and Charles the Master of the Keys were all absolutely brilliant and dedicated.
The first half is over in a flash. Divided up into short segments of Prologue, Act I and Act II it isn’t long before a large and characterful snake, puppeteered wonderfully by the Triplettes de L’Antiquite (Clare Beresford, Miriam Gould and Shamira Turner), has bitten and killed Eurydice. Poor Orpheus discovers his wife’s body, but there is little time for crying as after a short interlude of time in which the performers get their breath back, they dive onto stage to entertain the audience with some Hot Club Dance that will get your toes tapping and hands clapping before the storytelling continues once more. The arrangement of the cabaret seat section at the front, clustered around small tables with luscious velvet cloth and mood-making candles really transports you back in time to an era where the music hall was king.
Everything has been thought about with great care in this show, which makes it very special indeed. Not only were the performances top of their class but the actors were also wonderful musicians, who moved flawlessly from one song or scene to another, and with no sheet music – amazing considering there are over 20 compositions performed. With such a range of beautiful music from Reinhardt’s own anthology, to Clair de Lune, Le Carnaval des Animaux, and some Bach and Brahms also, you would be hard pressed to get bored, particularly considering the sheer number of original pieces composed by the company: it is impossible not to be impressed by this.
Mary Drummond has designed the set beautifully; it was clever, but not overly complicated. What set changes there were throughout the show were carried out ceremoniously by the actors, and were amusing in parts or emotive in others.
I was fortunate to have a wonderful seat near the front in the centre. Being able to see the smallest shift in the actors’ faces I found that, when the ultimate climax of the story arrived, I had tears in my eyes. An accumulation of perfect performances, direction, music and lights certainly make for an absolutely flawless piece of theatre I would see a hundred more times!
Presented by: Little Bulb Theatre & Battersea Arts Centre
Producer: Liz Moreton
Little Bulb Producer: Farnham Maltings
Director: Alexander Scott
Box Office: 020 7233 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/bac/shows/OrpheusGML
Booking Until: 17th May 2014