Theatre in Wales

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Richly gothic play

At Theatr Clwyd

Orpheus Descending-Theatr Clwyd & Menier Chocolate Factory , Theatr Clwyd. , April 23, 2019
At Theatr Clwyd by Orpheus Descending-Theatr Clwyd & Menier Chocolate Factory The Orpheus of Tennessee Williams' richly gothic play is Valentine Xavier, superbly played by Seth Numrich, a drifter in a snakeskin coat whose constant companion is his acoustic guitar. His descent is into the hell of a small Southern town rife with gossip, sexual longing, jealousies, rampant emotions and festering violence.

His one true friend in the town is Lady, played with great emotional intensity by Hattie Morahan, a store owner with both ambitions for improvement and a sick and demanding husband upstairs. I spent the last half hour of the play hoping against hope that it would all work out well for Lady and Valentine and knowing that it wouldn't. Hades is not a forgiving kingdom.

Jemima Rooper is a dangerously sexual Carol. Mark Meadows plays seriously unhinged as Jake, the husband upstairs. Carol Royle is Vee, the artist who is always waiting for a divine vision.

They and the rest of the cast flesh out the township in all its small mindedness, suspicions, fearfulness and eccentricity verging on madness, becoming a Greek chorus without ever being frozen in choral attitudes.

Tamara Harvey's handling of her cast is exemplary, there is constant ebbing and flowing which fills the empty spaces of the large acting area. Yet when only two people occupy the space it never seems vast, particularly during the scenes between Lady and Valentine.

Orpheus Descending is not a Tennessee Williams play often seen but when the production is this good you wonder why it is so neglected.

Reviewed by: Victor Hallett

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