From director Claudia Barrie comes the local production of Sarah Ruhl’s 2003 reworking of the ancient myth of Orpheus. Focusing instead on the titular Eurydice, Orpheus’s wife, the production is engaging but not all that compelling. Throughout the play there were moments of real beauty that were the product of the overall aesthetics and production value, but often there was a disconnect in tone between the acting, the writing and the direction.
Eurydice is a modern retelling of the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus. The plot follows Eurydice’s husband Orpheus who is heartbroken after his wife’s death and is determined to bring her back to the world of the living. Orpheus breaks into the underworld and attempts to trick Hades into allowing him to take Eurydice back. To do so, Orpheus must walk back to earth without looking back to her.
Retelling the myth of Orpheus to focus instead on Eurydice, Sarah Ruhl’s reinvention brings a distinctly feminine perspective on this ageless myth. The writing is exquisite and garnered moments of absolute beauty. The lyricism and poeticism of ancient Greek tragedy was retained, as were the allusions to ancient Greek mythology. However, the narrative could have been tighter, as during the middle section the drive of the story became lost.
This combination of elements of real magnificence with a lack of clear trajectory characterized the entirety of the production. Each individual aspect of the show would have been thrilling to watch, had it been a showpiece of its own. Instead it felt like all the elements including the set, lighting, sound and costumes were fighting against one another.
At a base level the script presents a tragic story of love and loss between Eurydice and Orpheus, however, with comic portrayals of characters and tonal shifts that could make your head spin, it was hard to get the emotional punch that the play could have produced. The pointedness of the Ruhl adaptation was lost in overly melodramatic scenes.
The colourful and bright costumes, designed by Isabel Hudson, were reminiscent of characters from Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Set against the stripped back wooden stage these bright colours and over the top characters seemed clunky and out of place, and led to characters seeming like caricatures.
Ben Brockman’s lighting design was nothing short of spectacular in itself, and yet again, had it been integrated with the rest of the performance it would have added so much to the production. Instead it got lost with so many other exaggerated elements.
Character relationships were developed and complex which at times really hit home through brutally honest performances and at other times didn’t seem to make sense. The relationship between Eurydice (Ebony Vagulans) and her father (Jamie Oxenbould) was very raw and honest to watch. The pain of losing one another was believable and heartbreaking to watch. However, the love between the outgoing Eurydice and the self-obsessed Orpheus (Lincoln Vickery) was hard to believe; the love that was described just didn’t appear to be there.
A highlight of the show was the performances of The Stones (Megan Wilding, Ariadne Sgouros and Alex Malone). They brought light and comedy into the piece. Their puppetry was very funny to watch and it was abundantly clear the message they were sending of the unimportance of each small moment of our lives and yet the amount that we dwell on it.
Nicholas Papademetrio, Lord of the Underworld, was intriguing to watch when he first entered the stage and hung by the windows, but as he left the shadows and started interacting with more characters he became less engaging to watch. Papademetrio’s character embodied the dangerous or misleading allure of the unknown when it is presented as desirable or beautiful Yet, due to the creepiness of Papademtrio’s portrayal, it seemed contradictory for his character to allow Eurydice to leave.
Claudia Barrie’s rendition of Eurydice is an original and different interpretation of this script, something that is welcome to Sydney theatre audiences. While it may not have worked perfectly in this production, there were still moments of genuine splendor in this show and it was a spectacle to witness. Despite this, the show was fraught with contradictions between characters and their relationships while the dynamics between set, actors, costumes and staging detracted from the emotional weight that they play holds.