Friday, 9 May 2014

***** Orpheus at the Battersea Arts Centre - A kaleidoscope of Django Reinhardt, Paris, Cabaret, Love and Greek mythology



The Orpheus Gang
 There is a lot to say about Little Bulb Theatre’s brilliant production of ‘Orpheus’at the Battersea Arts Centre but one thing is for certain and that is this kaleidoscope of mixed performances and musical scores inspired by Jazz musician, Django Reinhardt, will catapult an audience to magical Paris faster than the Eurostar. Although Reinhardt is the 1930’s maestro and protagonist who embodies Orpheus (Dominic Conway,) the show is electrifyingly sharp it manages to squeeze in its own creative assemble with added classical edge including Debussy, Brahms and Monteverdi. Parisian cabaret would not be complete without sound bites of Edith Paif that is emulated through Yvette Pepin (Eugenie Pastor,) our hostess who also portrays Eurydice to illustrate the Greek tale. It is a play inside a play.
Yvette Pepin (Eugenie Pastor)
The grand hall is home to Robert Hope James’ historical organ that dates back to 1901, which the Master of the Keys, Charles (Charlie Penn) plays ravishingly through Bach’s Toccatoa and Fugue in D minor. The stage turns into Bar De La Muse where front row cabaret tables, red wine, champagne and camembert are available for an authentic red velvet experience. Within the first few minutes the audience get a run down of the mythology played out fervently but with great amusement. Orpheus does not say a word but Conway’s talent on the guitar needs no explanation as his dexterous fingers speaks volumes much like Reinhardt own musical expertise.
Orpheus (Conway) and his lyre with Tom Penn & Shamira Turner, Clare Beresford and Miriam Gould
A skillful and versatile troupe come together including the strong arms of our actors stage hands, (Tom Penn and Alexander Scott) and the sweet vocals of the triplettes de’antiquite, (Shamira Turner, Clare Beresford and Miriam Gould.) Not only can these guys act, deliberately in an odd way, they can also sing operatically in additional to playing musical instruments. They partake in several plots as artists of the cabaret stage as well as the mythology in elaborate costumes dressed as Parisians, animals and creatures of the underworld. The triplettes de’antiquite jump around as fern, rabbits and Cerberus. Scott and Penn bounce around with attempted ballet jete - the lousy and comedic variation - with paper birds in their hands. 
The Lovers
In Act 2, Scott plays a conniving Hades in mask and cloak showing off his musical mastery with the clarinet, but Penn puts on an androgynous Persephone who beguiles the audience with an unexpected sorrowful falsetto voice. His soothing presence calms a hyped up room and renders everyone speechless.  Yet, as Conway strums his chords harder and everyone puts their fire and might into progressively bashing and blowing their instruments louder they build up a momentum that gets the audience’s adrenaline pumping which diminishes the moment Orpheus turns around. Eurydice grasps and poof - she is gone.
Poof! And she goes!

Orpheus comes as part of the Battersea’s Arts Centre season of Gods, Myths & Legend. Think of Bottom from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night Dream, think cabaret and tragic love story. ‘Orpheus’ is a jam-packed show which theatregoers won’t have a moment to reflect on as they will be too busy enjoying it.