Eurydice (& Orpheus) by Alexander Wright and Phil Grainger – Streatham Space Project
While the content of live performance takes second place, at the moment, to its very existence, Streatham Space has pulled off a success on both fronts. Being open at all, in any form, is a huge achievement at the moment and the fact that Streatham Space, only two years old, can pioneer socially distanced performance in London is something of which they should be very proud. The venue is exceptionally well-managed, its communications are a model of clarity and the entire experience feels totally safe.
Orpheus and Eurydice are two companion shows, performed separately and sometimes, as one the night I saw them, consecutively. Both are written by Alexander Flanagan-Wright with music by Phil Grainger. They also perform Orpheus, which is narrated from a notebook Alexander had left over from a broken relationship. The story of a modern-day Orpheus – a guy called Dave, hanging out with the wrong mates (not bad, just lads) until a woman with an unlikely name walks into the bar where his 30th birthday drinks are in full swing. Grainger soundtracks with unaffected vocals and guitar Eurydice, which follows, is performed by Serena Manteghni and Casey Jay Andrews with Grainger again, this time on a synth.
These shows are fringe stalwarts, having toured from Edinburgh to Australia and back over the last couple of years. Both play with the power of the myth – love, despair, descent to hell, hope, devastation – and both its applicability to our own lives, and the teasing questions it leaves unanswered. Alexander is a genial performer, clever at maintaining dialogue with the audience without undermining the power of his words. Despite the updating, Orpheus tells the conventional version of the story.
Eurydice, powered by Manteghni’s likeable, manic presence, and Andrews’ calmer presence, takes a more critical perspective. It questions who was in control when Orpheus turned around and lost the chance to resurrect his dead bride and suggests that the decision to remain in the Underworld was hers, not his. This is just the sort of thinking that is being used in writing of various types to unpick new layers of meaning in stories we think we know. It is a pleasure to see performers back on stage, playing to audiences, each as grateful as the other to be there. The companies behind this double bill, The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledegook Theatre, do not disappoint.