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Orpheus, Battersea Arts Centre

Presented by Little Bulb Theatre and the Battersea Arts Centre

Pros: Lots. Something very different from your average trip to the theatre: it is a concert and a play all in one with a little French joie de vivre. Fantastic performances from a dedicated cast.
Cons: A little slow to get going.
Our Verdict: Another fabulous production in the spectacular Grand Hall of the Battersea Arts Centre that offers a lot of excellent content for a reasonable price.
Courtesy of the Battersea Arts Centre
I am having an illicit, one-sided love affair with the Battersea Arts Centre. It’s getting a bit ridiculous now, but how can I help it when every show I see at this venue impresses me more than the last?!
Orpheus is co-produced by the highly regarded company Little Bulb Theatre and the BAC themselves. It centres around the Greek myth of Orpheus, who journeys into the world of the dead to retrieve his dead lover and wife Eurydice from the cruel grasp of Hades, God of the Underworld. Little Bulb adds an extra dimension to the story by using Django Reinhardt (Dominic Conway), the talented and god-like French musician of the early 20th century, to play Orpheus. Through the use of both Reinhardt’s and other contemporary French music, this show transports the audience back in time to a 20th century French jazz café/music hall, aided greatly by the spectacular architecture of the BAC’s Great Hall.
The performances were emphatic with no weak links; they were all enthusiastic in each role played. Special mention must be given to Tom Penn, who portrayed a great number of characters (including a deer) with intent. However his shining moment came during his song as the trapped Persephone, wife of Hades. His voice was wonderful, capturing the feminine lilt but not going so far as to make it funny; truly one of the best moments of the show.
One thing that really stood out for me was the emphasis and detail put into the mise-en-scène. Each scene was a beautiful montage of colour and sound, and not only that but it felt like the actors really understood the stage: they hit their spots perfectly every time, moving with grace and fantastic timing. Scene after scene we were confronted with beautiful staging. Applause must be given to director Alexander Scott, as it was a truly stunning vision, and apt for such a wonderful venue.
The other jaw-dropping moment came at the climax. Orpheus, having won the chance to take Eurydice back to the world of the living, is not allowed to look back to see if Eurydice is following while they are still in Hades’ realm. As the music picks up in pace and volume, the whole of the audience were on the edge of their seats, rooting for a “happily ever after” moment. But when Orpheus steps out into the light of the living world and turns back to see Eurydice she is dragged back by Hades. We all knew it was coming – even if we didn’t know the story before we had been given a brief summary at the beginning of the night – and yet everyone gasped out loud. Those gasps revealed, much more than clapping could ever do, our enjoyment and involvement in the show. Thanks to the dedicated cast of Orpheus we were immersed; it became a personal loss.
The show was a tad slow to get going but picked up very strongly in the second half. There are so many more pros than cons for this show (most of which I haven’t had the space to write about), including the gorgeous cloth scene backdrops, the spectacular use of the organ at a pivotal point of the show, and the beautiful headgear and costumes. You must go check it out for yourselves to see what I’m talking about.
Overall this is a truly one-of-a-kind show. It is theatre, but by introducing pre and post theatre entertainment, musical interludes and food and drink that wouldn’t be amiss in a French bistro, it offers the audience much more than an average theatre ticket. Trust me: it is worth paying the tiny amount of £20 to see this show!
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Orpheus runs at the Battersea Arts Centre until the 11th May 2013.

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