Orpheus, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Laura Kressly

Last year at the fringe, my nearly eight-year relationship fell apart. In order to survive the final stretch of the festival, I put on a brave face and told no one. Already tired and drained but with a week or so still to go, I continued to see shows and write about them, refusing to acknowledge my personal emotional landscape.

One show managed to break down the buttresses shoring up my heart that final week of the fringe. I wrote about it well after the fact, but was still vulnerable and in the process of disentangling my life from someone else’s. At least I didn’t have to pretend to be strong anymore, and I didn’t have to fake it in front of my peers at a festival known for emotional breakdowns.

A year later, I am well on my way to recovery. I’m also coming to terms with the damaging effects the newly-recognised toxic relationship had on my life, and am slowly reclaiming the person I used to be. But most unexpected was an old friend starting to become something more when I was at my lowest, post-breakup point.

From a compost heap of rotten, dead things, new things can grow. The feelings that followed were those I’d long forgotten – I felt like I was seeing in colour again after not noticing my world had been greyscale. I rediscovered happiness, security and being wanted.

When Dave meets Eurydice at a karaoke bar on his 30th birthday, he sees her surrounded by an aura of yellow and blue. As a young man, the colour had started seeping from his vision until everything appeared in shades of grey. The sudden shock of brightness meant that Dave’s life was about to change.

The six months that follow are perfect. Dave and Eurydice are love personified. They quickly move in together, then get married. Their lives are saturated with colour and wonder and perfection. Alexander Wright and Phil Grainger’s script seeps with imagery and music that perfectly captures the exquisite experience of falling in love. Spoken word, prose and acoustic guitar blend to provide a word bath of feeling and for someone in the throes of this, it’s perfect.

The lo-fi, modern Orpheus myth has its faults. The simple update honouring traditional storytelling techniques abruptly returns to the classical version when Eurydice suddenly dies hours after their wedding, raising questions about the reality of the world the script has created. The ending is sentimental and grief is glossed over.

But love? This show has it. Searing heat and racing hearts and heightened senses and believing for one tiny moment that the world is perfect because of the way you feel about someone else and knowing they feel the same way about you – it’s all here. This dive bar-going, shy Dave and the magnificent Eurydice are perfect and nothing else matters.

Orpheus runs through 26 August.

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