Edinburgh Fringe 2009
You start your journey to the Underworld by, literally, a long journey to an Under World: walking through a cavernous collection of corridors to find the performance space. On the afternoon this reviewer was there, he was, in true Fringe tradition, accompanied by the cast of a production of Alice In Wonderland, in full costume, which only added to the sense of travelling to another realm.
Having youngsters crawl around on stage hissing the names of the main protagonists while wearing masks means that we don’t entirely escape the spectre of so-called ‘student theatre’, but luckily, this production is much cleverer than that, not least because of the evidence of much wit and charm in our host for the journey, Tom Rosenthal, as a laconic Boatman, who goes a long way into managing to make this reworking of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth accessible and understandable, and a few neat gags referring to the Furies, and an oft repeated line mentions that it ‘always rains here, but nobody brings an umbrella’, a sentiment that hardened Fringe goers may well appreciate.
The performances here are uniformly very good, showing a variety of fears and concerns: Persephone is a broken, disjointed spirit, while Eurydice is battered and unsure, both proving the assertion that love is a ‘horrible, horrible thing’.
Speaking of fears, we have two characters representing the main character’s fears and doubts, but even so, the personifications themselves are confident: Her fears, in the form of a man, comes across as all strutting confidence, while his fears (female) are full of pouty sensuality. They both crawl around the perimeter of the space, balefully watching their prey, waiting for the weaknesses to reach up and strangle the main characters.
But actually, there are no main characters here; this is truly a team effort, and there are some lovely moments here as a group: their movement during the final journey to the underworld, the various representations of rain hitting us from the heavens. No performer is ever ‘off’ – you glance up to find a character that’s not spoken for a while, and they’re leaning against the far wall, sadly watching as the tragic story unfolds.
When you return, blinking in the sunlight, you realise how much you’ve been transported to another world. Under Edinburgh: a group of great promise and talent.