With the story fully recounted within minutes, the subsequent two hours bring forth a riot of musical comedy as the troupe silently act out the play. Pastor, the only actor who speaks, has mastered the intonations and mannerisms of the grand diva, while Conway’s mute Reinhardt charms as a consummate showman, possessed by his own brilliance. But this is an ensemble piece, with every member of the eight-strong cast proving a triple threat as they summon the ghosts of silent cinema. It’s rare to see a production in which so much is conveyed by wayward glances.
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The combination of pastiche and invention is enchanting, particularly in the second half, which begins with a multi-part musical revue before descending into the frenzy of the underworld. Near the end of the night, drummer Tom Penn lets loose with his ethereal vocals, while the almost-final choral rendition of Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine proves a rousing conclusion. It may sound a little too packed – there is a puppet snake, a dancing bear and Bach’s Toccata – but the overabundance of activity has a thrilling momentum all way to the tragic moment itself and beyond.
The music, written and arranged by Conway, is a wide-ranging delight, with snatches of Monteverdi’s Orfeo interspersed with French classical favourites, chanson and Reinhardt's own slick jazz. It’s eclectic without being a mismatch, finely evoking the 1930s while underscoring the troupe’s own chaotic tendencies. Mary Drummond’s period-perfect design well underscores the production’s artifice.
Although the Linbury’s constraints preclude transforming the theatre itself into a nightclub, as in the BAC, the company have refined their production to the point of seamlessness. This is musical theatre at its most joyously creative, confirming Little Bulb as bright young things of the stage.
After completing its London run, Orpheus will go on tour, stopping off at the Bristol Old Vic (23-26 Sept), Nuffield Southampton (29 Sept – 3 Oct), Liverpool Everyman (20-24 Oct) and Birmingham Repertory Theatre (28-31 Oct).
|What||Orpheus, Linbury Studio Theatre|
Royal Opera House
Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
15 Sep 15 – 19 Sep 15, 7:45 PM – 9:45 PM
On 19 Sep 15, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Royal Opera House|