The production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice for the On the Rocks Festival is truly weird and wonderful. Directed by Kate Stamoulis and Molly Ketcheson, the play takes the classical myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and updates it for a modern audience. We follow Eurydice from her wedding to Orpheus and through her untimely death and trip to the underworld. The play focuses little on Orpheas’ ill-fated rescue mission that is the primary concern of most adaptations of the myth. Instead, much more time is given to Eurydice. The key to the production is how it recentres the story– Orpheus is important, but the story is Eurydice’s.
Eurydice is a fascinating character and Fiona Lock does her justice. She manages to make Eurydice feel completely real, even set in mythical surroundings. Capturing moments of levity with just as much expertise as her sincere declarations of love and heartbreaking final lines.
The heart of the piece is in Eurydice’s relationship with her father (Sam Mason), a character added to the story by Sarah Ruhl. There are some beautiful moments shared by Eurydice and her father and Lock and Mason navigate the exploration of memory and the importance of family tenderly.
Of course, there is romance and Orpheas (Marcus Judd) and Eurydice’s tragic love story is played brilliantly by Lock and Judd. They play off each other masterfully, and Judd’s Orpheas is compelling as a flighty musical genius. His more heightened moments are performed forcefully, we really believe in his lost love.
Jamie Cizej (playing a character listed in the programme only as ‘Nasty, Interesting Man’) is brilliant as the piece’s smarmy villain and the chorus of stones - played by Charles Vivian, Mhairi Clare Lynch and Heather Tiernan - are definitely a highlight. They are in equal parts hilarious and unnerving. With only seven of them, the performers truly light up the stage - a small cast with a big impact.
The story of course centres around music, and this production takes on this challenge brilliantly. With original music from Ellie Trace, Bryn Jackson-Farrer and Mairi Small performed by a live band on stage it really captures the essence of the piece and Orpheas’ ‘A Symphony for Twelve Instruments’ was particularly haunting.
The play was an excellent choice for On The Rocks, showcasing some fantastic student talent across the performance and technical elements and it will surely be a highlight of the festival. It is wonderfully weird, beautiful and heartbreaking and everyone should see it.