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A Review of Hadestown, at the National Theatre

Anais Mitchell & Rachel Chavkin’s Hadestown, a musical retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, is exquisite. On at the National Theatre until the end of January, just before its debut run on Broadway, the musical chronicles two tales of love alongside each other - that of Orpheus & Eurydice, and that of Hades & Persephone. The main conflict of the play begins when Eurydice sells her soul to move to the underworld, in this case appropriately dubbed ‘Hadestown’, despite her love for Orpheus who lives on earth. Summer has ended, and the winter has grown increasingly bitter, causing it to become more and more difficult for the impoverished and troubled Eurydice to fend for herself. Lured by its promises of warmth and security, she thus surrenders her soul and moves to Hadestown. Meanwhile, Orpheus, distraught at the news, seeks for a way to save her.

The production, in terms of lighting and staging is highly impressive, thoroughly elevating the audience’s experience of the plot with a rotating stage, smoke machines and immaculately choreographed dance sequences for each of the songs. In terms of acting though, although all of the cast are phenomenal, the character of Persephone, portrayed by Amber Gray steals the show. She infuses the performance with a sense of effortless humour, as well as intensity, and the power in her voice mixes seamlessly with the lustre of Patrick Page’s distinctive and unforgettable baritone, as Hades. The music within the show varies greatly, within itself, consisting of slow ballads, as well as with powerful anthems like ‘Why We Build The Wall’ which have charged resonances in the current political climate, all of which are performed on stage throughout the length of the show by a mesmerising seven piece band.

The musical is oftentimes concerned with seeing the world ‘as it could be, in spite of the way it is,’ a particularly hopeful outlook on things portrayed in ‘Road to Hell II,’ one of its particularly memorable songs. For the length of two and a half hours, the audience does exactly that - witness a flamboyant, dramatic, and wonderfully over-the-top depiction of the world as it could be, rather than how it is. If you like musicals, Hadestown is exactly your cup of tea. If you don’t however, I’m sure there’ll be something in it for you either way.

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