Director: Alexander Scott
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
The Little Bulb Theatre’s telling of the age old story, Orpheus has come to the Linbury Studio via the Farnham Maltings and Battersea Arts Centre. Its reputation has obviously preceded it, hence the capacity audiences for an all too short a run in Covent Garden. From its inception seven years ago it appears that the company is made up of graduates from the University of Kent. Orpheus is the latest in a string of shows which have received a number of accolades and this, surely, will be no exception.
It is possible to imagine that in writing its own material the process began with “which actors are going to be available?” such is the variety and particularity of the talents required for this piece. Where else is there a proficient percussionist such as Tom Penn who can sing a moving counter tenor aria in between dressing up either as Satan’s side kick or a comic woodland animal and also play the Celtic harp?
The cast comprises eight players, identified in the programme only by the instruments they play. It is reasonable to suppose that Dominic Conway is Orpheus and Eugenie Pastor Eurydice but they are also Dhango Reinhardt and the chanteuse and Edith Piaf look alike, Yvette Pepin. The chorus line of Clare Beresford (double bass) Miriam Gould (violin) Shamira Turner (accordion) Tom Penn (percussion) and Alexander Scott (clarinet) frequently leave their places on either side of the stage to become animals, Parisians, inhabitants of Hades or Django/Orpheus’ besotted fans. They also play nurses, doctors, priests and anything the company might require. The only one who stays in one place is Charlie Penn, holding all together at the keyboard.
Mary Drummond’s art nouveau proscenium arch frames the action as if in a French café theatre. Eugenie Pastor’s mid-20th Century red velvet number matches the date of the jazz and contrasts with the flowing drapery she wears as Eurydice. The wonderful masks and the terrifying puppet serpent of Max Humphries and Cheryl Brown add greatly to the spectacle, while the lighting by Michael Odam on the cloths of Rebecca Chan have an ethereal aspect.
There is little chance of getting a seat before Orpheus leaves the Linbury but a tour follows. The quality of this show with its wit, humour and pathos is well worth a day off work and a train ticket to one of the following venues.
Runs until September 18th, then tours to Bristol Old Vic, Nuffield Theatre Southampton, Liverpool Everyman Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre.