Eerily beautiful reading places Eurydice at the heart of the Orpheus myth. A triumph for Kerridge and cast.
A starscape of naked light bulbs hangs over a minimal yet incredibly effective multi-layered set, ringed by a Styx of shallow water in director Luke Kerridge’s take on American playwright Sarah Ruhl’s sharply conceived and eerie twist on the ancient myth of Orpheus and his stolen bride, the Eurydice of the title.
Flipped on its head, this dark fairy tale has been partially modernised, with the focus firmly held on an effervescent and frolicking Ngaire Dawn Fair’s Eurydice. In comparison, Johnathan Peck’s Orpheus is a bit of a self-important bore, with his head lost in musical clouds, largely oblivious to the desires of his beautiful bride-to-be, herself seeking solace in books. Though strangely distant, his keenly felt loss when she is kidnapped by the mischevious Hades sparks his foolhardy and thrilling quest to retrieve her soul.
Dion Mills is both dashingly handsome and decidedly sneaky as the greedy king of the underworld, who so lusts after and then seemingly casts off Eurydice, like a treasured toy he’s grown too old for. He just doesn’t want anyone else having her. At times masterful, at others he’s quite hilariously childish, complete with cardboard cut out boat with which he navigates the river of lost memories.
There’s comedy to be had too with a wonderfully manic trio of talking stones who act as our narrators and guides to the many restrictive rules of this quirky underworld, with Alexandra Aldrich, Olga Makeeva and Sam Duncan clearly relishing their roles and thoroughly embraced by a willing audience.
Ruhl wrote this touching re-working in part as a eulogy for her own father, and the real meat of the play lies in an amnesiac Eurydice re-connecting, unwittingly at first, with her lost dad, played with deft heart by Alex Menglet. Providing an emotional rock, his understated turn is quite magnificent.
Kerridge successful maintains Ruhl’s delicate balance of sorrow and joy, whimsy and philosophy, delivering one of the highlights of this year’s Red Stitch program. He’s grandly assisted in this endeavour by Emily Collett’s inspired set design; when a petulant Eurydice has a dummy spit because hell has no private rooms, there’s a wonderful moment as Menglet fashions one for her using nothing but suspended string to demarcate the walls of blissful privacy. It’s in these simple moments of love communicated silently that Eurydice shines. A mesmerising trip to hell and back again.
Stephen A Russell
Eurydice is at St Kilda’s Red Stitch Theatre until Oct 4. www.redstitch.net