Myths and Legends come two a penny to Greeks, we bathe in their classical springs. Witness Aphrodite rising form the sea off the coast of Paphos, creating the totemic rock, Petra Tou Romiou, which thousands of gullible tourists visit each year in the hope of receiving eternal beauty and long life, having swum where the goddess wrung her silken locks. Orpheus and Eurydice is far more straightforward. He falls for her, “she whose justice extends wisely”, but meets with a hellish ending. Perfect material for a musical perhaps. In the same way that I thought the utterly bonkers but hugely enjoyable Bat Out of Hell could not work so too with Hadestown (National Theatre), based on an original album, previously a fringe theatre show (remember this when playing charades at Christmas) now in London before hitting Broadway next year. Once bitten…so I arrived with an open mind.
Gathenas me din bellara dou sums this up. We see O’ and E’ in the USA during the Depression and that’s as much as you need to know about the storyline. It is basically a lazy dramatisation of the album. However, musically it is gloriously defiant and eclectic, and brimful of gutsy performers who give their heart and soul in delivering an intoxicating mix of gospel, jazz, thumping funk and wistful folk. Director Rachel Chavkin keeps it simple in allowing the songs to work their magic with scorching lyrics by Anaiîs Mitchell who is also responsible for the music and book. Eva Noblezada is a little too sweet as Eurydice but that works well with Reeve Carney’s phlegmatic Orpheus who has a glint in his eye suggesting mischief.
Everybody plays second fiddle to the devil man himself, Hades, Patrick Paige a furnace of energy, menace and fiery talent that sweeps all before him as he entices them into the dirty lucre dominated Underworld. The icing on the cake is undoubtedly the cracking choreography which sparks into life intermittently and is executed with great skill and gusto. The song Why We Build the Wall irked as it is so blazingly obvious that even the Golden President himself would have approved. The show is cleverer than that and you will forgive a minor blip in what is otherwise a production ablaze with invention and passion.
Meanwhile Sotira Kyriakides is happy not being alone…
Dietrich: Natural Duty (Wilton’s Music Hall) is a wonderful tribute to La Grande Dame with Peter Groom morphing into his chosen diva with an uncanny magic. He not only looks like her but the mannerisms, voice, accent and every twitch evoke a very seductive portrait of the legend. Dietrich’s calligraphic signature is projected large onto a plush red velvet curtain. The only other props are a period side table with a vase of flowers and that essential set of Dietrich accessories: cigarettes, matches and ashtray. As Brook emerges on stage, we are mesmerised by the vision of his uncanny resemblance and the sparkle of the crystal-encrusted dress that shimmers and twinkles, impeccable costume design by Kathleen Nellis. There is also evocative use of sound recordings by Kieran Lucas evoking different characters from Dietrich’s life. Most moving is her mother, who was trapped in wartime Berlin as her daughter was lauded in Hollywood. Throughout a recounting of a tumultuous life, Brooks holds court as Dietrich no doubt would, invoking a mixture of incandescent glamour and tragic events which combine to make for a bittersweet and delicious evening.
Finally, Theo Yiannis leaves his comfort zone…
The National Youth Theatre production of Macbeth (Garrick Theatre) is definitely an ‘alternative’ version. It is gender fluid in every sense and for an old-fashioned grumpy old man like me quite an eye opener. Apparently, the director wanted the actors to fit the role rather than worry about anything else. As a result, Macbeth is female and some of the other characters are ‘swapped’ too. Olivia Dawd gave an amazing performance as the murdering king and because of all the swapping you get a new perspective on a well-known play.
The passion of the young actors shone through, in whatever role they played. Especially so, as they were directed in such an innovative way to have centre stage and facing the audience at some point – making each one the focus for a few minutes or more. Most importantly, it was great to see the players so confident and masters of their every line and move.
Hadestown – 020 7452 3000
Dietrich: Natural Duty – run complete
Macbeth – 0330 333 4811