Gaps in retelling of Greek myth

REVIEW / THEATRE

EURYDICE

Couch Theatre

Drama Centre Black Box Last Saturday

There are moments of haunting delicacy in Eurydice that almost make up for the gaps in this production by hopeful young group Couch Theatre.

A book sent into the dirt by bereaved musician Orpheus (Uday Duggal) descends dramatically from the ceiling of the Drama Centre Black Box so dead Eurydice (Shu Yi Ching) can relearn to read in the Underworld.

Bereft of memory after her death, her confusion is allayed by her dead father (Ivan Choong). He lovingly creates a "room" for her to occupy by suspending strings from an umbrella. All the dead are allowed an umbrella and suitcase on their final journey.

The absurdity of the set (by production designer Izabel Cheng) bounded by stacks of suitcases, a portentous and little-used yellow lift is transcended by a theme song (composer Toby Twining, sound designer Yee Jia Rong) which mournfully spells out Eurydice's name in endless loops.

It is this music, sad and ethereal, which lingers in the mind after watching American playwright Sarah Ruhl's contemporary retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

But surely that is wrong for it is Orpheus who loves music and not his dead bride, Eurydice. She loves books - or so we are told, rarely shown. Adding telephones and symphony ensembles is all Ruhl's script does to update the story. It remains a myth about men, not the titular character.

In Ruhl's hands, Eurydice is a cipher and child, torn between an Electra complex towards a dead father - weddings are when fathers and daughters stop being married to each other, she declares - and the domineering charms of Orpheus as well as the Lord of the Underworld (Ejaz Latiff).

There are so many ways to run with this trainwreck of a character, but Couch Theatre's staging of Eurydice, which ended its run yesterday, only renders the script. It does not exploit the gaps written in or even between scenes.

The cast walks in, delivers lines decently and goes off, at least once letting seven seconds elapse on an empty stage. This is space and time wasted when it could have been filled with physical theatre or silent action to make the imaginary world more explicit. Awkward transitions add to the awkwardness in characterisation.

Duggal and Ching do not seem comfortable enough to be lovers. Choong is believable as a doting father, but not as a resident of the Mississippi delta.

Minor characters make up for this a little. Ejaz is perfectly oily and sleazy while Adi Jamaludin, Jasmine Blundell and Natalie Yeap steal the show as a chorus of stones. They rock their roles - literally - and provide a rollicking glimpse of what Eurydice could be with a little more thought.

There is a difference between delivering lines and inhabiting roles.

Akshita Nanda

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'Gaps in retelling of Greek myth'. Print Edition | Subscribe