The Theatreguide.London Review
Ruhl's major contribution to the Orpheus myth in her 2005 play is not
the modern dress setting (which actually muddies things a bit) but the
shift in focus to the bride Orpheus fails to rescue from the
away from her
wedding party, Eurydice falls and dies, and reaches the Land of the
Dead by a descending lift that doubles as shower stall, washing away in
the waters of Lethe all her memories of life. She meets her dead
father, who has somehow avoided the forced-forgetting process, and he
guides her back to remembering, so that she mourns the loss of her
husband while he is on Earth mourning her.
her from impulsively making him look back at her when he comes to save
her, foiling the rescue, and so she returns to the Underworld, choosing
this time to bathe in the waters and be freed from her painful
memory of life can be both a blessing and a curse to the dead is the
play's emotional core. Of course the idea is not new - it isn't even
new to American drama, and Ruhl must know Thornton Wilder's Our Town,
which says much the same thing. But it bears retelling, though one
might have hoped for it to be dressed in more skilful dramaturgy.
of love between Orpheus and Eurydice, and the scene in which she and
her father revel in the rediscovery of warm family memories, are both
very sweet and evocative. But Orpheus himself is a barely written
character, quickly reduced to a bit player, while a mysterious man,
meant (I guess) as an avatar for Pluto, is never really integrated into
is met in Hades by a Chorus of talking rocks who are evidently the
upholders of the local regulations and, aside from being slightly silly
as a concept, they are given little to do except grumble whenever she
breaks the rules.
to take a turn wrestling with self-consciously poetic lines like 'His
eyes were two black birds and they flew to me' or 'I heard your name
inside the rain,' and it doesn't take too many of those to reduce
language to empty music.
Uhiara does her best to make what is essentially a poetic concept into
a real character, and is most successful in her scenes with Geff
Francis's warm and solid father.
Director Bijan Sheibani successfully navigates the inherent difficulties of playing in-the-round, and Patrick Burnier's set is certainly inventive, from impressionistic lift to real water fountains, though lighting designer Mike Gunning seems never to have checked his rigging, as some of us in the audience spent whole chunks of the play with a blindingly bright footlight shining directly into our eyes.
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Eurydice - Young Vic 2010