We follow Dave, a young poet, for whom pink is his favourite flavour of ice cream and the familiar chorus of “Lads! Lads! Lads!” doesn’t ring true for. Dave gets glasses because colour starts falling out of his world, falling into greyscale. I never thought about how colourblindness would really affect everyday life, but he learns traffic lights by the order, buys jeans that he’s 90% sure are black, and he’s restricted to only hearing the leaves change in autumn. Dave is someone who’s in touch with the unseen, often forgotten, magic of this world. And when the lights go out, and the mic cuts when he’s shakily singing Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark, who walks in but Eurydice, bathed in yellow and blue. Cue KT Tunstall’s Suddenly I See from your personal soundtrack, because she starts to fill up every crevice of Dave’s world with colour.
Orpheus is about the beauty of falling in love for the first time, something I can’t relate to but I didn’t have to. The language and images emoted in the poetry, and the moments of communitas when we all sang Bruce Springsteen and “Colour me in so I’m not just black and white” were enough to make me feel in love. With what? Life itself, people meeting, making me “drunk on colour, drunk on soul.” It made me hopeful.
Orpheus is also about the tragedy of losing that first love, and coming to terms with it, hence the quest into Hades, and also accepting her (later) as a tree. The Underworld quest reminded me of the power of art in the gloomiest of times, as by humming the Grainger-original tune of “Colour me in”, Charon lets him in his boat, Cerebos is soothed, and Hades himself is charmed.
I could imagine this narrative on the streets of New York City, or in London, with Dave walking into a bar where the Greek Gods are chilling, being their contemporary versions, and later, Dave smiling at an oak tree as an old man (post-Eurydice’s death), the tree being Eurydice his naiad wife. It felt like a modern story that speaks to everyone, including those who have never experienced love, but particularly for those who have. It certainly spoke to my friend, who tried her best to unsuccessfully sniffle back her graceful tears for the last quarter of the show. Other audience members also had their eyes glistening with the memories of their past loves.
Being somewhat knowledgeable in the myth, I was glad they tried to flesh Eurydice out a bit, showing that she was also invested in this relationship, and even gave her a line of dialogue. I appreciated how Flanagan-Wright and Grainger changed the narrative of Orpheus from not trusting Eurydice enough to he is too excited to have her back in his life as to why he turns around and looks at her just as they are about to succeed. I was also pleased to hear they were going to write another show called Eurydice, giving her more of a voice and more agency. If Orpheus is anything to go by, the yet unmade Eurydice will be an equally stunning show.
Orpheus is beautiful. Simply and ineffably put.
While Fringe is sadly over, this show is going on tour around New Zealand! Tour dates are available at A Mulled Whine or and tickets are available on Eventfinda. Also, they’ll be hitting up Bali, so if you’re in the area, go check them out.