American playwright Sarah Ruhl re-tells the famous tale of Orpheus descending to the underworld to retrieve his dead bride by keeping our focus firmly on Eurydice.
Her play has a gentle poetic humour as the romantic musician pines on earth for his love while below Eurydice, reconciled in death with her father, seems happy without her boy, now searching her past and dead future.
Now we see why, while alive together, the couple, Ebony Vagulans and Lincoln Vickery, were so cheesy and awkward with each other – and later why Eurydice drags her feet in following him back up.
The problem is that the other key relationship is also stilted: between Eurydice and her inexplicable father (but played with gentle enthusiasm by Jamie Oxenbould).
What works to give fast access and clarity in this handsome production is Isobel Hudson’s elevated pine wood stage with trapdoors and a wall of central doors and shuttered windows.
Up regularly from the floor come the three female Stones, ragged cabaret artists running a droll Home County commentary on the rules and protocols of life being dead. Hudson’s costumes and Claudia Barrie’s direction of them are masterful (except for some laboured carry-on with puppets).
All the performances are fine but as the Stones, Alex Malone, Megan Wilding and Ariadne Sgouros take the honours. A campy Nicholas Papademetriou makes a sinister if undercooked Lord of the Underworld.
Ben Brookman’s evocative lighting and Ben Pierpoint’s outstanding collage of industrial sounds and echoes of classical and pop music add to the impact. Ruhl’s playful feminism aside, the power of that original story screams through.