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ARTISTS have been inspired by the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice since ancient Greece and Zinnie Harris has joined their ranks with a two-hander that focuses on the moment Orpheus looks back and realises the full extent of his loss.
Harris’s simple, stylish and compressed version follows two women stranded on a surreal sandbank after a boating accident. The couple approach their new, strange reality with intriguingly contrasting emotions.
Marianne Oldham’s Robyn acts as a fearful narrator and it soon becomes apparent that the reflective, echoing world where they are marooned is her troubled mindscape attempting to make sense of the present.
Oldham is pitch-perfect in her attempts to rise above despair, with her somewhat manic attempts to hang on to hope and embrace a reality which is temporary. Her mood-swings as doubts creep in and the past stutteringly re-emerges are nuanced and heartfelt, without ever becoming cloyingly sentimental.
The reality of this precious, brief time together sinks in and the anger, desolation, pain and intense grief of losing a loved one plays out as Robyn is forced to ask fundamental questions.
Her partner Helen (Jessica Hardwick), an embodiment of everything that Robyn loves, is the epitome of life and, untroubled by their predicament, she buzzes with energy and positivity. Her final acceptance of fate is a beautifully simple statement of loss.
Artfully constructed, this is the tragic epic in miniature. Robyn’s obsession with a dead moth and a dripping tap are all part of the poetic whole that guides us through her grief.
Director and designer Murat Daltaban has created a luminous, reflective world where only the two women exist, with their movements often held in momentary tableaux as an expression of their relationship.
It’s a remarkable production, with two finely measured performances at the heart of a modern elegy to love and loss.
Runs until November 9, box office: arcolatheatre.com.
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