National Theatre (venue)
19 November 2018 (released)
21 November 2018
Hadestown transports the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice to a deprived, modern society, where it’s inhabitants can be found hanging out in a huge New Orleans Jazz club with no employment and an endless winter. The other half are doing no better, having sold their souls to Hades, they spend their long days building a huge wall to keep the poor out. Yes, there are plenty of relevant political touches.
Greek Myths have always been rich material for adaptions and Orpheus and Eurydice’s has everything a musical requires. The couple meet and fall in love (in the Jazz club), Eurydice is stolen away by the King of the Underworld (she’s hungry and accepts the deal) and Orpheus, equipped only with his song descends to the underworld to get her back. At the same time we revisit the myth of Persephone, married to Hades but returning to earth every six months, bringing the Spring with her. Love, Death and climate change. What more could you want?
American, Anais Mitchell, who wrote the music, lyric and book originally wrote a ‘folk opera’ album of the story in 2010 and has since developed the musical with director Rachel Chavkin. The resulting musical mix of modern American folk music with vintage New Orleans Jazz has been much anticipated and returns to Broadway after it’s run at the National.
At is best, Hadestown is fresh and contemporary with some sublime moments where movement, light and sound and light build to a rhythmic intensity. Stand out numbers include, ‘Way Down, Hadestown’ and ‘Wait for Me’. The diverse ensemble move through total lethargy to angry intensity and our Narrator, Hermes, played by André De Shields’s is the epitome of cool. Patrick Pages Hades with his growling bass is hard to resist and Eva Noblezada’s adolescent Eurydice has a delightfully lazy physicality, which bellies her powerful vocals.
There is for better or for worse, a repetitious, meandering quality to Hadestown and a pleasantly relaxed relationship with the audience; a mood borrowed from the world of gigs rather than musical theatre. At times, it feels as if the characters have been pacing around the rotating circles of the stage for an eternity. That said, it’s got to take a while to walk to Hades. By the time the circles finally stop turning and the threads of Orpheus’ song have comes together, this powerful meditation on loss hits home.