Writer: Maud Dromgoole
Director: Tatty Hennessy
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
When two ancient tales entwine, then are given a modern twist, what can we discover about the stories we tell about women? Taking the Grecian myths of Persephone and Eurydice as its inspiration, Maud Dromgoole’s Acornis surprisingly modern and witty, with more than a few tricks up its sleeve.
Persephone’s opening monologue is direct and pithy, with more than a few laughs. Deli Segal’s deadpan delivery is unashamedly contemporary, setting the piece up as far more than a restating of the classics. In her scrubs and NHS lanyard, this goddess is less Queen of the Underworld and more frazzled junior doctor, with Segal immediately putting the audience at ease and grounding the piece.
More traditionally dressed in a Grecian gown, Eurydice (Lucy Pickles) prepares for her wedding day, spurning her ostentatious father and opting for a simple ceremony. The women’s speeches begin to be interspersed and overlap, binding the two together despite existing in different spheres (and different sides of the stage).
As the stories begin to interweave, and the characters come together, other myths and stories begin to emerge. In addition to the on-stage cast, the audience hears the voices of two woodsmen, and there are projected filmic sequences that merge the Snow White fairy-tale with modern children’s programmes. Pickles plays a range of Persephone’s patients, flipping from childlike innocence to teenage angst to a woman gasping for breath, leaving Segal’s character in uncharted waters.
Pickles is enigmatic and versatile as Eurydice, moving from naturalistic to other-worldly with ease. As Persephone, Segal is compelling and intriguing, despite a propensity for upward inflection that sometimes makes her seem insincere. The relationship between the two is believable and engaging, with the disintegration of Persephone’s boundaries and breaking of her own rules adding a layer of intimacy. Dromgoole ensures that the references to Eurydice’s story are cleverly woven into the fabric of the play, rooting the play simultaneously in the then and the now.
The Persephone story, however, is far less clear, with the veiled references to her myth a little too subtle to be satisfying. The tale of her abduction by Hades and subsequent credit for changing of the seasons is largely absent, distilled down to a single reference to pomegranate seeds and an association with death. This left the play a little unbalanced, allowing it to become largely Eurydice’s story rather than a true meeting of myths.
On the whole, this is a well performed, cleverly written and slickly staged production. The film elements added little – in fact, they were more of a distraction than a boon – but the set, sound and lighting design complemented and underscored the text, particularly in the less naturalistic scenes. Unconventional, unabashed, and at times unexpected, Acorn is a show that will make you want to look back.
Runs until 29October 2016 | Image: Hannah Ellis