Friday, 8 April 2011

Orpheus X

Royal Lyceum Theatre
4 stars
The rock idiom, when applied to more formally theatrical terrain, can often appear unbearably naff. Rinde Eckert’s rendition of the Orpheus myth, however, in the hands of director Robert Woodruff, is a major step forward in acknowledging contemporary music as an artform on equal footing with opera and other ‘higher’ genres. Here Orpheus is a tortured, self-absorbed rock star holed up in his studio after he was in a big yellow taxi that knocked down and killed the poet Eurydice. With his manager buying up her collected small press works in downtown book-stores, Orpheus creates a living shrine as he turns his experience into a tear-stained concept album. It’s the sort of thing Lou Reed might have done circa his smacked out Berlin album. Whether Lou would’ve gone down the mean streets of underground Hades to rescue his dead damsel, however, is a different matter.

As the audience walk in, a naked woman squats at the back of the stage chalking in her own legacy, a version of which is projected onto a video screen as a four piece band warm up. Wielding his guitar like a weapon, Eckert strides out, launching into an avant-rock racket, setting the tone of what follows with pounding intensity. Offset by Suzan Hanson’s more formal operatics as Eurydice as she enters through the auditorium, it’s a devastating counterpoint which builds to a stunning sensory overload climax as a blind-folded Orpheus attempts to walk her back to life. There are stunning echoes here of the very modern myth of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s supernatural escape from Heaven. With John Kelly’s Persephone an androgynous, Mark Almondish figure, it says much too about artistic sensibilities, dead poets and the swell of public grief surrounding the death of celebrity pin-ups.

This is the sort of hip, contemporary, post-punk fare the Holland Festival has been embracing for years. Alongside the rest of the Edinburgh International Festival programme, Orpheus X points to the future. More please.


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