Eurydice was a young woman on the cusp of happiness. She’d found the love of her life and she was ready to get what she wanted. Until she was tricked into the Underworld where her choices aren’t quite what they once were. In a hazy retelling of the Greek tale, the boundaries of responsibility and desire blur as a young woman finds her place between heaven and hell.
Eurydice (Ebony Vagulans) is marrying Orpheus (Lincoln Vickery) but she wants some time to reflect on her happiness and the absence of her father (Jamie Oxenbould) and goes for a walk. During this walk she is confronted by a strange person who claims to have a letter from her father. This strange figure is the Lord of the Underworld (Nicholas Papademetriou) and he has come to trick Eurydice into his hellish home. While Orpheus develops his plans to rescue her, Eurydice gets to live a life she lost with her father. She’s been given a taste of being a daughter and a wife, so which is safer and which is truly hers?
Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation that centres on Eurydice’s experience of these two relationships brings out the conflicts of control. This young woman was brought to the Underworld against her will and she doesn’t get a lot of choice in leaving either. Perhaps her staying is tragedy, but perhaps it’s a wish fulfilled at last.
Direction from Claudia Barrie is delicate in the way it builds tension over long spans of time with interrupting letters and commentary from the Stones (Alex Malone, Ariadne Sgouros, and Megan Wilding). Their presence as part Vaudeville performers, part care-takers harks back to traditional Greek narration techniques and creates a refreshing mix of whimsy and threat to the act of story telling.
Vagulans’s Eurydice is caught in between two lives and her fear, even as she tries to hide it, is genuine. There is tenderness in her relationship with Vickery’s Orpheus, optimistic and a bit love-drunk, whereas Oxenbould brings gentle and resigned strength to his depiction as the lost but found father. These relationships seem quiet and reserved but it adds to the ache of Eurydice’s predicament.
The interaction between the set and design elements with the shifting focus of the script is magical and supernatural without becoming distant or childish. Eurydice’s story and the landscapes she finds herself in are mysterious and menacing even as she finds strength or comfort in them. The regular threat of being dipped in the river, forced to forget, is complicated by her desire to remember her father, perhaps at the detriment of forgetting her husband.
This is a hazy, enchanting, quiet production that will leave you aching for those moments when you had to choose a path, weigh up memories and fantasies, and set a course for yourself. Barrie finds the angst and ambiguity of an old tale and makes it new for those who are still stepping fearfully through the world.
Eurydice is running at the Old Fitz Theatre from November 15th – December 15th