Talking Gods II – Orpheus

Reviewer's rating

‘I am trapped in a myth that is not mine’, says a jaded Eurydice. This is perhaps the line that captures best the essence of this adaptation and reinterpretation of the Orpheus myth by Ross McGregor.

In this innovative rewriting of the myth, set in 21st century London she gets to share her version of the story, of how she met Orpheus (Christopher Neels) and how they not so slowly fell apart. 

Unfortunately, the play was only available to see online, because of the current situation. And even less, fortunately, the video version of the play fails to do justice to the story. The lighting is good and varied and succeeds in conveying the characters’ feelings, but the rather campy editing, weighted by superfluous video effects, hijacks the viewer’s attention from the actors’ performances. 

The beginning of the play describes how the two mythical figures met in a club, and from then, the tone of the play is quite obvious: it is filled with sarcastic and over the top humour, which Eurydice uses when she addresses the spectator. From the outset, Eurydice confesses to the spectator in close-up shots that she is frustrated with her life, that she is only waiting for it to begin, and that she wouldn’t mind being dead. 

The rest of the play mostly focuses on the couple’s differences and their fights. Eurydice criticizes Orpheus for being lazy, for cheating on her, and Orpheus dismisses her complaints. Though it is interesting to get her point of view and to understand her feelings, it is frustrating to witness her staying passive throughout the play. When she dies, poisoned by a snake in a zoo, it becomes obvious that she wants to stay by Persephone’s side, in the underworld. She even warns the goddess from Orpheus’s singing. Later, on their way back to London on the tube, Eurydice even tricks his lover into looking at her so that she can stay in the underworld.

If the play focuses on Eurydice’s experience and feelings, it is nevertheless intercut with Orpheus’s musical numbers. He performs popular songs from different genres and times: from The Wknd to Oasis, and even Blondie. Oasis’s ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ is the most striking one, playfully encapsulating Orpheus’s personality and attitude. However, not all of the musical numbers are coherent with the play, and they are not particularly moving. Instead, they work rather well as a display of Orpheus’s dorky rockstar persona. 

Despite these, the character of Orpheus critically lacks depth. He wears a jacket similar to Pete Doherty’s in the early 2000s, which reinforces his persona of a careless rockstar, but his lines make him a clownesque character rather than a charismatic heartthrob. The fact that his character is very stereotypical, compared to Eurydice, results in the play’s discourse being a bit shallow and very binary. In this way, the play also fails to deliver its biggest promise, which is an interesting feminist twist on the play. Instead, it only reinforces ancient stereotypes: the careless man and the passive, cheated woman; the confident God and the doubting human.