Orpheus***** (Battersea Arts Centre, 18 April 2013)

Posted: April 19, 2013 in Music, Theatre

The beautiful Great Hall at Battersea Arts Centre is transformed into a Parisian music hall of the 1930’s; audience members are seated at tables around the performance area, acres of plush red velvet curtains dominate the room and even the huge built-in organ is brought into use. Ostensibly, we have come to see a mimed enactment of the story from Greek mythology in which Orpheus descends into the Underworld in pursuit of his lost love Eurydice. Of course, the mime show is completely ridiculous even though the sight of over-sized performers prancing around and exaggerating their facial expressions in the style of Valentino and Pickford is intermittently funny. But this is not the point. The mime show is there just to give the setting and ambience for the music, played by a wonderful eight piece orchestra, all of whom also perform in the mime. The music is basically anything and everything French, ranging from Debussy to Piaf, but most prominently it is jazz. The production makes the inspired assumption that the legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt would have been performing at this venue on this evening. Playing Reinhardt, Orpheus and guitar, Dominic Conway is magnificent. He is equalled by Eugenie Pastor, MC, chanteuse, flautist and Eurydice. These two performances are unforgettable tours de force. If this is what the Underworld is like, those of us who are probably destined to go there need not feel so bad about it.

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