Until Sat May 11
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Tue Apr 23 2013
Musically gifted theatre troupe Little Bulb’s sprawlingly overambitious new show doesn’t just retell the Orpheus myth – that would be too obvious. Instead, it imagines it as if it were being recounted in a chanson and hot jazz style by a group of early twentieth-century Parisian musicians, foremost among them guest star Django Reinhardt, the legendary gypsy guitarist.
It’s a delightfully mad melange of ideas, and over two-and-a-half hours, Little Bulb very nearly pull it off in a show that’s the theatre equivalent of eating all your favourite flavours of food all at once. ‘Orpheus’ has ravishingly quirky Georges Méliès-indebted visuals – my favourite was Eugenie Pastor’s Eurydice frolicking in a wood full of spectacularly awkward animals.
It has some fantastic musicianship – the company schooled themselves in gypsy jazz for the project, and countertenor Tom Penn steals the show with a heartbreaking solo as Persephone. It makes use of BAC's enormous pipe organ, which rumbles through some Bach to stunning effect at the start of act three. And it has lashings of oddball humour – Dominic Conway’s Reinhardt is brilliantly absurd, never saying a word, his face a mask of benign self-importance.
But in BAC’s huge council chamber venue, ‘Orpheus’ just doesn’t take off. Indebted to the look and feel of early French cinema, with only one real speaking part, it has none of the intimacy of Little Bulb’s other work. And while it almost coasts by on charm and looks, the presence of a walloping 40-minute interval in the middle (the second 20 minutes features the band playing, but still) kills the momentum of the story, relegating it to merely a part of the entertainment in what amounts to a bold but overstretched evening of inventive Francophile kitsch. Andrzej Lukowski