One of the most “romantic” shows I had seen online in the last year was the dance production Wait For Me by Sam Cassidy. The thought of this combination propelled me towards a show from 2018 called Myth, again by Cassidy and performed in a semi-staged production at The Other Palace Theatre in London. The specific myth referred to in the title turned out to be that of Orpheus and Eurydice one of the greatest love stories of all time, so what could be more appropriate?
It’s a modernised reworking of the tale set in the world (and, of course, underworld) of the rock music business but still paying homage to the features of the original legend. Orpheus joins the band the Argonauts who are in pursuit of fame and fortune (the golden fleece). However, he has what he rather condescendingly sees as a purer vision of his art and soon is at loggerheads with group leader Jason; the band starts to disintegrate. Encouraged by A & R guru Miss M(edusa) Orpheus visits Underworld Records and does a deal with kingpin Hades, but it is one that puts him on a path to destruction through use of the drug Viper.
Orpheus’ fiancée Eurydice sacrifices herself to save him and in return he follows her into the afterlife to bring her back. It’s a clever update even if there are some bits and pieces borrowed from other tales to make things work. There’s also the convention borrowed from Greek drama of having a Chorus to comment upon and direct the action – in this case it is the three Fates who flesh out the sound as backing singers while also getting many moments to step into the spotlight.
This semi-staged version works very well and at times it is hard to differentiate whether it is a musical with a rock concert setting or a rock concert that happens to have a story. Cassidy’s songwriting is strong and there are numbers in a variety of moods delivered by some excellent vocalists and a tight musical band. The whole is capably directed by Arlene Phillips who puts in some nifty movement even though it’s surprising, given her day job, that there are no actual dance numbers. As in any great rock gig, a huge contributor to the success of the piece is the exhilarating use of lighting; try as I might, I couldn’t find a credit for this anywhere so kudos to whoever you are as this helped to make it special. I had a bit of difficulty with the dialogue audibility though this was solved by adopting headphones.
There’s a talented team onstage too, led by Joel Harper-Jackson in the central role; he captures just the right level of narcissism and insecurity which seem to go hand in hand with self-destructive tendencies. Diana Vickers’ Eurydice is rather more one note, though her singing is thankfully much more varied than that. Matthew McKenna puts in a powerful triple turn as nasty Underworld boss Hades, camp chat show host Dionysus and Scottish DJ Sisyphus (“forever pushing that rock”). There’s no denying the power behind the vocals of Zoe Birkett as Miss M but probably the honours go to the trio of the Fates, Jodie Steele, Eloise Davies and Jodie Jacobs. I once had the honour of directing the latter as Little Voice and it’s great to see that her vocal prowess remains undiminished by time.
One particular aspect which gives the show a contemporary resonance is that Orpheus has clear mental health issues. There are voices in his head guiding his moods and then there is the substance dependence – the latter has echoes of Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Winehouse and many another modern musician. They are all at the centre of modern day myth making and may turn out to be as well remembered as the gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines of ancient days.