Thoughts on Hadestown by Pamela Vera

hadestown-national-theatre-c-helen-maybanks

Hadestown opened with a strikingly diverse ensemble cast, of all ages, skin tones and body types suited and booted to retell the Greek myth of Orpheus journeying down to Hades’ underworld to bring back spring and his love Eurydice.
The play began in song, and finished in song, a sort of folk-opera that showed the vocal range, physical and dance prowess of the entire cast. It was refreshing to see a cast whose diversity felt authentic and fitting..

The upbeat arrangements and lingering lyrics made for a great night. The cast’s abundant vocal range complimented and contrasted each other in equally delightful measures, a special mention to Hades troup for their rigorous energy throughout. The exposed live band (cellist, drummer, saxophonist, guitarist, the works) added a layer of realism to the New Orleans jazz and folk vibrance of the minimalist set design, that consisted of pastel colours wooden balconies in creating an intimate stage. The boisterous performance of the entire cast is a reason itself to see the show. It felt like a concert, from the very the beginning with characters being introduced with their own small bios. The cast would often break the fourth wall to encourage more audience participation, with silhouettes of the cast spreading into the theatre walls, as if dragging the audience members into the underworld. Dynamic lighting changes as well as an atmospheric set added to the fantastical mood. A great juxtaposition of a fun night with the dark underworld themes of enslavement and misery. Emphasised even more by the melodramatic acting and cabaret style of the songs. Whilst all of the cast were dynamic, the notable duo for me was Persephone and Hades. Amber Gray delivered a a drunk reinterpretation of Persephone with both humour and delicacy, whilst the husky undertones to her powerful voice, wonderfully showcased in ‘Way Down Hadestown’ enriched her character. Whereas Jordan Page’s villainous deep voice in reimagining a pantomime Hades, was both fitting and effective in offsetting the excitement from the infectious songs to refocus the audience to the play’s insidious dark themes.

As fun as the singing and dancing was, the concert feel did have its cons, sadly. Parts of the play felt quite overwhelming; I wanted some speech, a narrative drive and more character development. I needed a break to process the non-stop singing. However, as the narrator was effective in concluding the beginning and end of scenes, I began to appreciate the concept of the play more. Hadestown is based on Aines Mitchell’s original songs, originally conceived for an album and later revised for a play, which explain the story’s trite predictability. Yes, yes, I’m aware HadesTown is based on Greek Mythology, but, there was definitely room for more narrative development, as to a heavier focus on the theatrical delivery. With that being said, there is great relatability in the plot’s parable. Orpheus’s quest to bring back spring reflects the cyclical nature and struggles of life, mythological or not; things blossom, things fall apart, things blossom once more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s