For those unfamiliar with the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, the story goes more or less like this: there is an Orpheus who is deeply in love with a Eurydice. (I assume here, that conversely, there is a Eurydice who is deeply in love with an Orpheus; we shouldn’t be too concerned with the details. We only need to know that they are in love.) They live together happily, but only for a short while, as suddenly, unexpectedly, one day, Eurydice dies. Orpheus sings out his grief, descending into the Underworld to bring her back. Hades allows it, stating Eurydice will follow behind as they ascend back to the world of the Living, but warning Orpheus to not look back on his return. However, like anyone told to not do something, Orpheus does it anyway, and Eurydice returns to the Underworld, lost to it forever.
There are, and have been, many reimaginings of this story. As the name suggests, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice is one such iteration, and one that chooses to centre Eurydice, and her grief, as well as subtly showcase Ruhl’s own grief in losing her father. Ruhl’s play is about lovers, sure, but with the introduction of Eurydice’s Father, the play then becomes something more – a meditation on memory, loss, and love, and what it means to be a daughter to a father. With director Adele Beaumont, assistant director Emma Johns, producer Georgie Eggleton and assistant producer Zoe Le Marinel on the helm, the SUDS production of the play manages to capture all these notes, and a touch more.
Maddie Lewis (Eurydice) and Dan Prichard (Orpheus) play the lovers charmingly, landing comedy and emotional beats with ease. Similarly, Aidan Hale as Eurydice’s Father strikes the right balance between the role of father and an individual with complexities. But it is when Lewis and Hale finally come together, and the story further diverges from the source material a little more, that the play seems to truly start.
Early on, we see Eurydice and her Father mourning each other. There are letters read from father to daughter, lines at weddings: “A wedding is for daughters and fathers”. When they meet again, in the Underworld, we are shown how much they love each either both in the smallest of actions – Eurydice is instantly comfortable even when she does not recognise her father; her Father makes her a room out of string – and in conversations, which appear as a chance to speak what they never had the chance to before. The subtle use of lighting to denote the setting changes between the Underworld and the World of the Living, as well as the minimal and stationary props (such as the water fountain), add to, rather than distracting from, these moments. Kudos to the set design team (Gemma Hudson, Gaby Walland, Hennessy), lighting designer Nikki Eghlimi, and stage manager Emily Whiting for pulling off such transitions seamlessly.
Moving on from these more heartwarming moments, it would be a remiss to not give special commendation to Nasty Interesting Man (NIM) played by Jeremy Jenkins, who most definitely stole the show. Laughs began as soon as the musical motif heralding the arrival of NIM played, and continued when faced with Jenkins’ sardonic smile, delightfully loud cackling while tricycling, and impressive walking in at-least-six-inch-heels. And while the stones (Luke Sheppard, Ashna Aravinthan, Cathy Gilbert), acting in chorus, added somewhat to the mood and atmosphere of the Underworld setting, their presence and tone seemed quite dissonant and disconnected at times to the more hard-hitting scenes between Eurydice and Orpheus, and Eurydice and her Father.
Putting all that aside, when considering the heart of Eurydice was Eurydice herself, dealing with the enormity of her love and her grief, there’s nothing much more to say, just questions to think to and reflect on. Whether it be imagining your own version of an afterlife, or about remembering people you love and have lost, or are losing, or will lose, or being a daughter to a father.
Eurydice will play at the Cellar Theatre until September 3. Tickets are available here.