Review: Eurydice, UCLU Runaground

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is awash with shows and companies. With so much choice and so much talent (and non-talent) it can be difficult to remember the purpose of such a festival. The fringe offers the perfect laboratory setting for young emerging talent to experiment, fail, but ultimately to learn from this process. What better platform – with willing and eager audiences – than at the world’s largest arts festival? I say this because in UCLU Runaground’s production of Eurydice, this committed group of young people perform with real heart and soul. There are some directional choices which are questionable, and the small studio space at C eco makes the production feels squashed, but where the piece falls down, it does so much more to lift itself up and keep going. This seems to be the very reason why the Edinburgh Fringe Festival exists, to offer a platform, to showcase directors and performers who are still learning, and to see the beginnings of some truly fantastic theatre work.

Having first seen Sarah Ruhl’s adaption of Eurydice at the Young Vic in London, I have a soft spot for this play. Ruhl’s writing is imaginative and compelling, and her great attention to the poetic nature of the characters and her respect for the original Greek drama means that any version of the play has a great starting point. Directors Nicholas Flooks & Rebecca Speller have done well to imagine Ruhl’s text, bring a level of playful excitement to the cast and staging, and while at times it feels a little clunky, this is easily overlooked by the performers abilities.

Melissa Taylor’s Eurydice is compelling and emotive, and when she plays opposite Rohan Pai as Orpheus you can’t help but to get caught up in the flickers of romance and hope between them. There are some wonderfully hilarious lines and delivery by Rob Thomson and the Three Stones (Matthew Holding, Eleanor Wright and Becky Durbin) who narrate and play the Greek Chorus, whilst Thomson creates some superb interventions to seduce Eurydice. You see, this is a cast who really throw their all into a show: they have nothing to lose, and play with compassion. There are some haunting if slightly awkward Spirits who seem to cause more chaos than add anything – just a case of thinking too big for the performance space, when actually stripping back on action and actors would have really benefitted the production.

Eurydice‘s palpable abundance of energy and excitement means you can’t help but smile and nod with the narrative. We know that ultimately Eurydice and Orpheus will never be together, in the world of the living or the underworld, and even as they sit next to each other at the end, the distance makes your heart cry a little. There is much to be learned from Eurydice and much that UCLU Runaground will learn from the experience of putting it on, but the main thing is that this production is the reason why we all come to the fringe. It shows the excitement that can happen when a young company are given the space and time to explore and perform. Now let’s wait to see what they produce next.

Eurydice is playing at C eco as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 27th August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.

Originally published on A Younger Theatre.