Edinburgh Festival Fringe opera review: Orpheus and Eurydice, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Kettle
There are some jaw-dropping moments in London-based About Turn Theatre Company’s staging of Glück’s Orpheus and Eurydice. To say more might spoil the surprise – suffice it to say that life-size garden gnomes play a big role at one point.
But what’s really astonishing is just how good the show is overall. It’s a proper opera, faithfully performed (albeit in an abridged version), with a remarkably creative staging and some seriously fine performers too – no sense of watering things down for an opera-uninitiated Fringe audience, just having faith (and rightly so) in their very strong production. Glück’s original is admittedly not the most sparkling work in the repertoire (although it’s got some lovely tunes), but director Sebastian Ukena gives it a striking contemporary setting, with Orpheus grieving over his coma-stricken Eurydice in a hospital room, lured down to a fantastical underworld by the seductive Amore in the hope of waking her.
Countertenor Magid El-Bushra is a real discovery in the central role of Orpheus, with a beautifully lyrical, expressive voice and strongly focused acting, too; soprano Olivia Clarke is nicely petulant as Eurydice, with a big soprano voice; and Kate Reynolds both comforting and alluring as the goddess Amore. The seven-strong chorus make an exceptionally fine, balanced sound, and Michael Cobb conducts with vigour, although his small instrumental ensemble – harpsichord, two violins and cello – are often a bit on the ragged side. But it’s Ukena’s hugely imaginative production, brought to life with remarkable visual flair by designer Christine Hatton, that lives longest in the memory – and they achieve quite a coup in challenging Glück’s unconvincing happy ending to heart-rending effect. It’s a superb production, mature and insightful, and best of all, it has something to say.
theSpace @ Venue45 (Venue 45), until 29 August, 7:40pm
Published in The Scotsman on 25 August 2015
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Check out today’s half-price ticket deals
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest