Review: Orpheus in the Underworld

Jess Moor 22 June 2012

Orpheus in the Underworld

Murray Edwards Gardens, 2pm, until Fri 22 June

Orpheus. That’s the Greek guy who goes to the Underworld to rescue his wife, right? Sounds gloomy, arty and altogether not suitable material to accompany the tender nursing of a May Week hangover. Well fear not, gentle theatre goer: ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’, counter-intuitive as it might seem, is a riot, and whatever slightly thrown-together quality it might have is eclipsed by the remarkable voice of lead soprano, Sophie Horrocks, whose vocal talent and comic timing arguably carries the whole thing.

Located in a lush corner of Murray Edwards gardens, James Robinson’s Orpheus is astute in his remark ‘Well, this is all a bit bucolic’. The audience lounge on the grass, sandwiches in hand, the orchestra are nestled under a gazebo, and the whole thing is almost absurdly picturesque. The freshness of the humour, however, prevents the whole thing from descending into cliche – the gods are clad like superheroes (or rather, like children dressed up as superheroes) with Jupiter as a David Brent-like figure (‘Everyone attending to their own elements, please! There will be a cup of nectar at eleven o’clock’). My more musically-versed friend informs me that the female singers are generally better than the male ones, although special mention goes out to Chris Loyn’s gloriously camp (and frankly, scantily clad) Styx.

The production is anarchic and perhaps slightly under-rehearsed, but impressively suffers little as a result. This is partly due to the riotous energy of the cast, and partly due to the jovial spirits of the audience, combining to make for an atmosphere that the most Bacchic Greek would approve of.

Classicists will enjoy the references, Musos will enjoy the singing, and mere mortals will enjoy the silly costumes and the fact that it’s acceptable to take a picnic. ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’ is the most fun that you can have in May Week without donning spanx pants/cufflinks (delete as applicable). Go and see it.

Jess Moor