Talent abounds in Orpheus’ latest incarnation. Little Bulb Theatre, together with Battersea Arts Centre entwines the charms of Orpheus and the talents of jazz musician Django Reinhardt to create an evening in which music reverberates through the soul and to the heights of the Grand Hall.
Transforming the Grand hall into a 1930s Parisian music hall, the eight piece orchestral ensemble harness the power of music to entice and charm through their original re-telling of the mythical tale, which sees Orpheus travel to the depths of the underworld in search of his lost love, Eurydice. Creating a play-within a play, Yvette Pepin (Eugenie Pastor), a member of a Parisian operatic company with a somewhat nervous energy, “humbly” takes on the role of Eurydice and announces the casting of jazz musicianDjango Reinhardt as Orpheus (played by Dominic Conway). Renowned for his musical talents, Conway portrays a Reinhardt that’s enigmatic; possessed by the sound that seduces the women on stage and the audience in their seats.
Against a canvas of distinctive art deco artwork, the ensemble perform a vibrant musical set, including live performances of jazz, opera and a solo performance on BAC’s restored grand organ. It’s a delightful repertoire that‘s jammed with eclectic sounds from Edith Piaf’s “Hymne à l’Amour” to Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”, fervently performed with precision and panache.
The live musical performances are the most stirring. The dramatic scene in which Orpheus and Eurydice travel out of the underworld in particular, is stunning. The accompanying sound calls the audience into step; each tone taking us further towards their fate and into a state of enchantment.
Despite the sight of humans acting as animals, which might not appeal to the all, there’s an intelligence that pervades through the production that’s difficult to ignore. The delicate interlacing of the mythical figure of Orpheus with the reality of Reinhardt’s talent, stitched together with evocative tones sounds complex, but by taking on the qualities of a silent movie, the company execute their vision with clarity.
Orpheus, Battersea Arts Centre (First published by What’s on Stage (Apr ’13)