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Play by Jean Anouilh translated by Peter Meyer. Directed by Simon Godwin.

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1930's France. Orpheus is a young man busking with his elderly father to raise a meagre living. Eurydice is a young actress travelling around in a theatre troupe led by her tyrannous mother. The two meet in a station buffet, fall in love and leave everything to start a new life. Yet they cannot escape the glare of their own memories, the burden of past lovers and past actions. As they flee to Marseilles they fall under the spell of the mysterious M.Henri, a figure who, they discover, holds the key to the worlds of life and death. When Eurydice is killed in a mysterious accident, M.Henri gives the lovers a second chance by bringing her back to life. But there is a condition. Orpheus must not look Eurydice in the eye until the break of dawn. Desperate to escape the past and terrified of the future, Orpheus' nerve cracks and he sends his beloved to a second death. In the last act, encouraged by M.Henri, he follows her. Against the backdrop of a dingy hotel room, the two lovers are reunited in a world where the doubts of life are finally dissolved.

Presented by the Straydogs Theatre Company, one of the youngest companies ever to produce work in the West End, as part of the Oxford Stage Company's season at the Whitehall Theatre.

When Eurydice was presented at BAC the play was hailed by critics and audiences alike as a neglected masterpiece of the twentieth century. Now working with a new company of actors in a West End theatre the chance has come to reveal this play to an even wider audience. A brilliant new treatment of one of humanity's most ancient stories, the time has come for Eurydice to be reclaimed by a new generation.

Cast: Orlando Seale as 'Orpheus', Edward de Souza as 'Orpheus' Father', Desmond Barrit as 'Monsieur Henri' and Amy Marston as 'Eurydice' with Ray Llewellyn, Roz McCutcheon, Susan Tracy, Geoffrey Beevers, Jeffrey Harmer, Clare Denton, Danny Babington and Gus Brown.

WHITEHALL Theatre Previewed 8 July, Opened 12 July 1999, Closed 14 August 1999

Extracts from the reviews:

"...Anouilh's updating of the Greek myth to a railway cafe in 1930s France is a verbose museum-piece. Simon Godwin's poorly-acted production for his Straydogs company enjoyed some success on the fringe, but has not been adapted to suit the demands of a West End playhouse. The decision by those currently programming the Whitehall to bring it in looks like rash bravery at best, sheer folly at worst. Anouilh, writing in the occupied France of 1941, used Orpheus and Eurydice's death-defying romance as a vehicle for his own preoccupations. He believed that life was unbearably trivial, but that sacrifice could transcend the banality of existence, and he was obsessed by the idea of performance. Thus Orpheus (Orlando Seale) becomes a busking beggar, and Eurydice (Amy Marston) an unhappy and much-pawed young actress. Their sudden love thrusts new, extreme, but equally phony roles upon them. Orpheus's musical talent, the crux of the original story, is drowned out here by the relentless droning of Anouilh's voice... It comes as no surprise to learn that Peter Meyer's stolid translation was originally written for the radio. Anouilh's philosophy comes at us in great, undigestible, undramatic chunks of verbiage. Director Simon Godwin doesn't help much by having the cast stand still while intoning their lines. The emphasis on role-playing results in a stilted air of knowing theatricality. Actors wait, patiently and glacially, for everyone else to finish before they embark on their own hollowly actor-ish speeches... Agnes Treplin's cafe set is dingily effective, although the gauzy backdrop of her design for the hotel room enables us, embarrassingly, to watch the dead come back to life. Anouilh's philosophical musings, and his belief in the mystique of performance, now look badly out of date. Especially in a dull little fringe production which has somehow found itself exposed on a West End stage." The London Evening Standard

"Anouilh's plays are today as unfashionable as penny-farthing bicycles. So it is a real pleasure to find a 23-year-old director, Simon Godwin, importing from Battersea Arts Centre a very good production of this forgotten 1941 play. Originally performed in London as Point of Departure, with Dirk Bogarde and Mai Zetterling, it is filled with Anouilh's characteristic perverse romanticism... Of course, the play is highly artificial: as critic Harold Clurman brilliantly remarked, French dramatists of the 40s made life look like theatre whereas now we expect theatre to look like life. But I found myself enjoying, in a mood of acrid nostalgia, Anouilh's heightened theatricality... Simon Godwin's production also boasts a strong cast. Orlando Seale and Amy Marston as the young lovers disrobe their souls with great candour. Susan Tracy as Eurydice's mother is wreathed in actressy charm and Desmond Barrit is quietly wise as the fedora-adorned harbinger of death. But the richest performance comes from Edward de Souza who gloriously turns Orpheus's lecherously reminiscing dad into a station-buffet Falstaff. It all makes for a bitter-sweet evening that reminds us of the Gallic theatricality we thoughtlessly threw out along with the unmourned French window." The Guardian

"If ever a play was suited to grand, idealistic gestures it is Jean Anouilh's Eurydice. The decision by Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of the Oxford Stage company, to take a revival of this syllabus stalwart by an unknown young fringe company into the Whitehall has an air of reckless defiance that would meet with the approval of Anouilh's uncompromising hero, Orpheus. But while the latter comes to spurn the world and all its mediocrity, there is no reason why Straydogs' beautifully acted production shouldn't stand its ground amid the tainted commercialism of the West End. Unable to rest on the laurels he received for the BAC run last year. 23-year-old director Simon Godwin successfully argues the case for this 1941 drama, and convinces - with the help of new cast members - that it can and should occupy a large space. Cleverly turning the Orpheus myth into a macabre 1930s love story - in which Orpheus's forgetful breach of Persephone's stipulation not to look at the rescued Eurydice becomes a deliberate choice to send his beloved back to the grave Eurydice tackles huge questions about life and its inimical relation to love. It does so through only a handful of characters and in a disconcerting, semi-naturalistic style. Rather than trying to fill the stage with unnecessary clutter, Godwin emphasises isolation, the actors taking up still, watchful positions in a spartan, stagey design that allows us to watch the scene changes. It is loneliness that this couple, a musician and actress whose paths cross in a provincial station buffet, hope their love will defeat. But they are soon separated, by mistrust and fate - the consequence, Orpheus is persuaded by the mysterious Monsieur Henri, of choosing life and the forced company of all its second-rate players..." The Independent

"Watching Jean Anouilh's Eurydice you become aware of an evocative smell, pungent as the smoke of a Gitane sans filtre. It is the unmistakeable whiff of fey Gallic pretension. Anouilh (1910-1987) was a grand fromage in the Forties and Fifties, but his stock has declined drastically. His once-fashionable work now seems dated to the point of quaintness... You have to put up with a lot of verbose, pseudo-poetic prose, but somehow the play works. It forced me to revise my opinion that Anouilh is a variant spelling of the French word for boredom... the whole play is steeped with a sense of exhausted fatalism, perhaps because it was written during the Nazi occupation of France. Love and innocence can never survive, argues Anouilh. Only death is beautiful: "Only death provides the real climate for love". I disagree with the play's counsel of wan despair, and fervently wish that Anouilh had curbed his tiresome logorrhoea. Nevertheless Godwin's production, evocatively designed by Agnes Treplin, combines lightness of touch with moments of startling dramatic power, and there's an outstanding supporting company. Orlando Seale and Amy Marston achieve exactly the right rapt self-absorption as the lovers. Susan Tracy is memorably affected as Eurydice's actress mother, while Edward de Souza is in vintage comic form as Orpheus's magnificently debauched father, plummily extolling the joys of prix-fixe menus, a good cigar, and depraved sex on the sofa. Anouilh wanted him to demonstrate the corrupt futility of life, making easeful death seem still more attractive. But in de Souza's lip-smacking and subversive performance the pleasures of the flesh have rarely seemed more alluring." The Daily Telegraph

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