ORPHEUS DOWN UNDER
Unexpected Opera at the Civic Theatre Chelmsford
Like the same company's Barber of Savile Row, this was an adaptation that probably sounded better in the planning than it did in the execution.
Briefly, the idea was to translate Offenbach's operetta, already an irreverent pastiche, to Kent in the 70s, and Bondi Beach via Mount Olympus. Orpheus is a violin teacher, Pluto is disguised as a Dylanesque folk singer, and Bacchus is variously Brucie, a Russian coach and an Aussie barman.
This version, by Tim Riley and Lynn Binstock, while it had no shortage of good ideas, did little to make the tangled plot more intelligible. Styx became a snooker star, Mercury was spaced out, and the Galop was a game of beach volleyball, in what was a highlight of the show, followed by a warm-up, which would have been useful earlier on, but which garnered more laughter in ten minutes than the operetta did in two hours.
The production boasted a large cast, some inspired zaniness – swimming in Y-fronts to the Sydney Opera House pursued by a shark - much lovely singing,[ Eunice's death aria, Styx's Back In The Day ] and an excellent on-stage band [Music Director Stephen Hose], but a lack of pace and direction meant that fizz and sparkle were in short supply.