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National Theatre, London
TWELVE years in the shaping, Anais Mitchell’s musical, drawing on jazz, blues, soul and folk, proves remarkably prescient and her collaboration with director Rachel Chavkin has produced a stunning piece of theatre.
The well-worn Greek myth of love and loss Orpheus and Eurydice is reimagined, with Patrick Pages as a gravel-voiced Hades. A ruthless tycoon in pinstripes and shades, he rules over a dystopian industrial world enclosed by a wall that keeps the impoverished out and blinds the workers to their servitude.
Those echoes of Trump are further enhanced by his rejection of the natural world for industrial might to “keep the rust belt rolling.” His relationship with his wife, Amber Gray’s bluesy Persephone, the goddess of harvest and fertility, has degenerated, soured by his obsession with the world of mines, foundries and electricity.
Her annual six-month sojourn in the impoverished world of hope and dreams is a drunken, celebratory and fruitful affair, while her forced return to Hadestown is barren and soulless.
Gentle indie folk-singer Orpheus (Adam Gillian), a dreamer, believes that he can write the song to restore hope, “to make you see how the world could be.” He enchants Eva Noblezda’s dynamic, sceptical Eurydice but is unable to keep her hunger at bay and she signs up for Hades's seductively deceptive promised world.
In his journey to regain her, his music stirs memories of the love Hades once held for Persephone and provides revolutionary seeds of hope for the oppressed.
Watching over events and providing the recitative is Andre De Shields's Hermes, more worldly wise, sharply dressed blues singer than messenger god, and a dynamic chorus of seven who switch from joyous bar revellers to the oppressed miners of Hadestown.
Rachel Hauck’s set, both amphitheatre and New Orleans-style bar, maximises the potential of the Olivier's revolving stage while Bradley King’s immersive lighting captures the industrial power of Hadestown.
Despite the myth’s inevitable tragic outcome, this remarkable theatrical import from the US is a celebration of the power of song and story-telling as a medium for hope — a paean to a better, more harmonious way of life.
Runs until January 26, box office: box office: @nationaltheatre.org.uk
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