Opera South East: Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, White Rock Theatre November 2/3. Review by Marrion Wells.
Anyone entering the White Rock Theatre in the anticipation of seeing a multitude of crinolines and a swirl of petticoats in the Can-can would very quickly have had their ideas dispelled.
This was no period piece but a present-day re-creation of an old, old story of love and hate set to romantic music but with a twenty-first century cutting edge.
Director Fraser Grant opted to introduce his story from the realms of a television studio with the requisite ‘investigative reporter’ played by Karen McInally as the voice of Public Opinion. Guardian of the morals, perhaps but certainly with her authentic Hiberian accent a colourful figure to set the musical ball rolling.
Eurydice (Linda Everett) and Orpheus (Jeremy Vinogradov) were a married couple but not a happy one, she with her dislike of his violin playing, he with his distrust of her. Her encounter with the shepherd Aristaeus, later revealing himself as Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, enjoyably portrayed by Ian Parrett, led to Eurydice’s apparent demise, and thus her foray with him into his fiefdom.
Meanwhile from the heights of Mount Olympus the assorted gods and goddesses viewed these events, including the arrival of the huntress Diana.(Judith Bovee) with their ruler Jupiter, a dominant performance from Peter Grevatt, with Sandra Lambourne as his wife Juno.
Determined to find out more, Jupiter ordered his subjects to follow him into the libidinous world of Hades.
They found Eurydice had been forced into solitary confinement so Jupiter turned himself into a fly to be able to penetrate the lock of her prison. (Did we mention this was a fantasy?)
Pluto, discovering the pair in the throes of a steamy love affair, denounced Jupiter whose response was to call upon his subjects to celebrate in the only way they knew, by holding a no-holds-barred orgy.
The storyline gave opportunities for a variety of characterisations taken from the pages of Greek history.
Somebody was turned into a stag - we were never quite sure who.
The orgy included a spectacular display of fire-waving, there appeared to be some excellent acrobatic performances, there was quite a lot of dry ice and a good time was apparently had by all.
Give or take that the Can-can was replaced with a stage-filling line-up of dancers, and Kenneth Roberts and his thirty musicians giving their wonderfully-supportive all, as they had done throughout the evening, the evening ended to protracted rounds of applause.