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Review: Orpheus at The Courtyard of Curiosities

Review by Kate Gaul

Alex Wright and Phil Grainger (Wright and Grainger) wrote this modern re-telling of Greek mythology in 2016.  Written in the heat of new love, we are told, the two have performed it around the world ever since. In The Yurt at The Courtyard of Curiosities we sit in traverse. The narrow space between the rows of audience is where these two weave a magical performance. Alex Wright with words, Phil Grainger on guitar. This is story telling at its most elegant as we are transported to a pub, a karaoke bar, a park bench and to Hades.

We begin in Edinburgh. We are told it is grey – grey buildings, skies, streets.  Even the beer is grey.  This is Dave’s world.  He lost the ability to see colour as a child. The poetic writing is filled with clean cut images that burn into our imaginations – everything from the face of a jock to the cut and pattern of a shirt.  Bullied by school mates for singing to flowers Dave retreated to a world of grey and today is his 30th birthday.  Singing Springsteen in a Karaoke bar, his world breaks open as Eurydice enters all coloured in love.

Now, if you know your Greek Myths you know how this ends.  But let’s imagine you don’t and in the hands of these master story tellers the plight of these star-spangled lovers is reimagined anew.  The joy of love is all sunshine and flowers. We are dancing on a meadow with friends and a feast.  I guess we know it can’t end well. In six short weeks, Dave’s is transformed by love, and he is almost broken by it when Eurydice dies.  The Gods will him to venture into Hades to retrieve his love. He encounters the three headed Cerberus and, with his music, soothes the savage beast. Charon appears and takes him across the river Styx. Dave is prepared to risk everything to save Eurydice. In the Underworld he sings a love song so achingly beautiful that Hades agrees to let Eurydice go. On one condition: she will travel behind him, and Orpheus must not look back until they both reach the surface. Just as they are approaching the light of the living world, Orpheus — plagued by doubt — takes one backward glance. And sees her. And loses her. Again. Despair!

There is a parallel story that weaves throughout this tale.  An older gentleman is sat on a park bench, he is dressed in his finest and may be waiting to meet someone.  An older Dave?  If love is stronger than death is this Dave waiting for his Eurydice to return?

Wright and Grainger immediately charm their audience and it is a pleasure to be in their thrall. In just over an hour, we are given a rare and blissful gift that appeals to our hearts and souls. Moving between our known world and the mythological has never been so engaging.  Catch “Orpheus” and then go see “Helios” – another myth reimagined and shared in a similar (but different) way at the Fringe. Recommended!

Image Supplied


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