The Bristol Old Vic hosts Little Bulb Theatre, a collective of excellent singers and physical performers who retell the myth of Orpheus through the medium of a recreated Berlin cabaret club. The evening pays tribute to Django Reinhart, and the legend of Orpheus, all of which is hosted by Edith Piaf. It was an eccentric evening, to say the least.
This play probably should have been listed as a concert, considering the number of original pieces performed by the group, each of whom play at least two instruments. While this isn’t a naturalistic performance, it is a piece that is also keenly aware of the darkly comic element of the cabaret style it embodies. The story of Orpheus is divided into separate episodes, punctuated by original compositions by a performer emulating Django Reinhart. The Master (or mistress) of ceremonies bears a striking resemblance to Edith Piaf (ok, it is actually Eugenie Pastor, but she is pretty spot on). These include ‘Mon Deau’, ‘Non, Rien de Rien’, and ‘If You Love Me’, all of which reflect the alternatively hopeful, and melancholic tone of the varying parts of the myth.
The performances are certainly theatrical, but the musical element dominates the evening. The musicians play a series of eclectic instruments from violas to accordions which help carry the audience away from the melodrama of the play. The self-aware melodrama of the piece is perpetuated by the slightly Brechtian slide shows that announce and describe each scene. Although the narrative is difficult to follow at times, the parts that touch on the original myth are well constructed, clear, and wonderfully performed. The set design is flexible (again, based on a slightly dingy Berlin night club), and the performances are very melodramatic, but it is all done with a wink and a nudge that leaves the audience in hysterics, rather than feeling alienated. Thankfully, the director, Alexander Scott, steers the actors toward the original ending of the myth without pandering to a more uplifting, politically correct ending, and it is clear that the audience appreciate it. It also proves to be an excellent introduction to the myth for those who are previously unfamiliar with it.
Review written by Madeleine Golding.
Orpheus was shown at the Bristol Old Vic from Wednesday 23rd until Saturday 26th September. The production will tour the UK, for more information, visit here…
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