Without any stage props or costumes you’ve got to depend on the story, and The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre nail it through a completely believable brand of spoken word.
In a modern-day retelling of the classic, Dave isn’t really like the rowdy lads he hangs out with, though he goes along with them to celebrate his thirtieth birthday.
He’s locked in a colour-blind world where all he sees is grey, but then enters Eurydice in shimmering blue and gold, the first rainbow he’s ever seen. If this isn’t the start of a love story, show me something better.
Alex Flanagan-Wright tells the audience from the start that he and Phil Grainger, the play’s pivotal singer-songwriter, come from Edinburgh, where buildings, streets and sky are grey. It’s a clever way to open the evening because we get to see the genesis of this myth’s remaking, and the colour motif is used cunningly throughout.
The tempo speeds up as we’re told the many ways Dave and Eurydice love one another as our narrator stares off into the breezy night and, when Eurydice dies, our narrator’s hand reaches out to the empty space before him.
I’m not giving anything away here – this is the part of the Greek tragedy we’re supposed to know, the part where Eurydice gets sent to the underworld and Orpheus (Dave) journeys to bring her back, but he’s not allowed to turn around and see if she’s there because if he does she’ll be lost forever. It’s the rest of the story that makes this multi-award-winning theatre so distinctive.
Flanagan-Wright is endearingly convincing and Grainger’s Jack Johnson-like style enhances the tone beautifully. The fact that there are only a handful of chairs facing each other and closing in on the performers enhances the intimacy of the night.
As we gathered in closely to follow along and sing the occasional Springsteen song, I felt I was sharing something familiar with my fellow Fringe-goers. Orpheus is storytelling at its finest – humorous, heartbreaking and accomplished.
Orpheus is playing in the Open Air Theatre at the Botanic Gardens until March 11.
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