Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Simply staged and visually stimulating


Nuffield Theatre, Southampton , Sherman Theatre Cardiff, venue 2 (14+15th sept 2006) , October 2, 2006
Orpheus by Nuffield Theatre, Southampton This captivating and enchanting play, a joint production between the Nuffield and The Sherman has its roots firmly imbedded in Senghenydd Road. It was written by Dinos Aristidou who plays a vital part in the life of the Sherman as its Education Youth and Participation Manager. In this role he oversees the activities of The Sherman Youth Theatre, The Acting Out training scheme and Script Slam where new playwrights are encouraged and developed. The Youth Theatre, under its artistic director will shortly be taking its recent very fine production of ‘Gospel’ to Kosova. There, as a result of the devastating war some years ago, there are simply not enough young men available to set up a youth theatre movement and get it under way. Cardiff based actor/director Gareth Potter has been directing and conducting workshops there, helping to develop the infrastructure. This work from the Sherman will be received with great enthusiasm and help point the way forward.

The Youth and education role the Sherman plays is a vital one developing young people in many directions. In its new role, when the combined Sgript Cmyru/Sherman Theatre Company emerges it will no longer be a designated young people’s theatre. It is essential that the Education and Youth projects run by dynamic people like Dinos Aristidou be retained.

He has an extraordinary and diverse background in the art of theatre and is highly regarded as a trainer of young people in all aspects of theatre practice. Before coming to Cardiff he was head of Performing Arts at Vienna International School, he has worked extensively with the International Baccalaureate Organisation in Diploma Theatre Arts and the Middle Years Programme. A highly experienced IB workshop leader and school consultant, he has been actively involved in curriculum development in both areas. Dinos writes and directs, and has been working at developing models of good arts practice for teachers, arts organisations and local education authorities. As well as training teachers for Theatre Arts, he has worked with entire faculties in schools at elementary and high school level looking at active approaches to learning.

He has worked as a kind of playwright laureate, although he insists he finds this no barrier to his creativity. Naturally with a Greek Cypriot heritage, as with this production, he has reworked many of the ancient myths. In Vienna as part of the United Nations International Women’s day he wrote Euripides’ Women, celebrating Helen of Troy, Antigone, Hecuba, Penelope and Clytinestra,

He has written for The Birmingham Royal Ballet, a dance piece with text ‘ Sasahr Stories of the Ballet’. As writer in residence at the Gateway Theatre Chester he wrote their millennium production ‘Polychronicon’ A history of the world based on the writings of a 13th century monk who was living in Chester at the time. His present work has come about as a result of previous working with Russ Tunney, Associate Director of the Nuffield.

Aristidou’s script is an extremely sensitive telling of the Orpheus myth. His verse has a rhythm and a clarity with a real touch of beauty, well suited to this mysterious journey. But there’s much more to it, the verse moves with great ease into a modern day vernacular prose with a nice touch of humour and some homespun philosophy.

Simply staged it is visually stimulating and very satisfying. We follow Orpheus, a performance of cool charm and charisma from Daniel McLennan, as he descends into the underworld seeking his wife, who has been bitten by a venomous snake on their wedding night. Eurydice, Roanna Cochrane paints a picture of a very attractive and spirited wife well worth challenging the powers to recover. Sitting on three sides of the stage we gaze at the action through a large white cloud that surrounds the white sculptured, angular set. There are just four players, all in white apart from the doorkeeper’s black frock coat. Orpheus’ lyre has been replaced by a white electric guitar which the actor skilfully strums creating rolling atmospheric music beneath his words.

As Orpheus bewilders his way towards Hades’ lair the other actors become the stumbling blocks that hinder his way. The Fates ensure that Orpheus has the means to pay the ferryman, Michael Magnet does a great job playing all the ‘heavies’, contemptuously growling at his innocent victims. Each of the three actors provides a head for Cerebus. Hermes and Eurydice exchange reminiscences like two recently reunited students. The marriage of Hades and Persephone, an engaging and lively performance from Helen Macfarlane, in contrast to the lighter touch she brings to Hermes, is one in which there is little mutual regard. Hades is another robust and captivating performance from Michael Magnet. The cast responds well to the music of the script and almost catches the whole of its magic though there is some clarity lost at the resolution of the play, otherwise a well-unified piece of directing from Russ Tunney.

Further tour dates of the play are as follows:
10 October 2006 10.45am Bitterne Park School, Southampton
3 November 2006 7.30pm The Petersfield Studio
19 January 2007 7.45pm Central Studio, Basingstoke
22 January 2007 3.30pm Stowe School, Buckinghamshire

Reviewed by: michael kelligan

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