Orpheus at Battersea Arts Centre
It’s easy to forget the experience of one’s very first live performance: the exhilaration of seeing a first play, going to a first gig, laughing at a first comedian. Then once in a while, a performance comes along that takes us straight back, and fills us once again with that raw amazement.
Tough to categorise, and relentlessly staged, Little Bulb’s reimagining of the myth of Orpheus is such a play, taking the Greek myth and resetting it to the frenetic cabarets of inter-war Paris, with Django Reinhardt cast in the title role. Part comedy and part concert, the entire show was framed by elements of contemporary “experience theatre” – the audience were encouraged to dress in 30s attire, and the cabaret style seating was complemented by dinner and drinks before, during and after the show. Much like the plays-within-films of Wes Anderson or even Ken Russell’s The Boyfriend, Orpheus’ combination of light and dark comedy within the milieu of mid-budget theatre resulted in a dreamlike pace and atmosphere, filled with vividly absurd costumes, sets and props which, though ridiculous, added to the Marx Brothers-like tone.
Though the concept and mood of the piece were already convincing, the performers were the out and out stars that made the night. Each member of the eight-piece orchestral ensemble played as an actor in the piece, while also providing the rich musical backing as part of a carbon copy world-class cabaret band. The double bassist, accordionist and violinist also acted as the female vocal trio and something of a Greek chorus; Eurydice was also our Piaf-esque MC and flutist, while the wonderful portrayal of Django Reinhardt was replete with some of the finest guitar chops imaginable.
The cast was simply brilliant and cannot be complimented enough – fine actors, fine musicians and gifted performers every one. With as much energy, creativity and enthusiasm as the entire West End, the eight performers took the audience on a musical journey that brought across the sheer range of the stage’s emotional (and darkly comic) capabilities. Sadly, you won’t see many shows or casts like this, so when these pure performances do come along they must be cherished.
Orpheus is at Battersea Arts Centre until 11th May 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a video of work behind the scenes of Orpheus here