Hadestown. What do I say about Hadestown. It was fine. There were many enjoyable elements including Eva Noblezada’s performance as Eurydice, the choreography and seeing the dynamic theatrical staging at the Olivier (National Theatre). But beyond that, I didn’t feel like I had watched something particularly ground-breaking. Rather, it was a series of events which amounted to little for me. Since watching it live, I’ve taken a liking to the scaled back and delicate feel of the cast recording with its original company. I do wonder whether I would have preferred a stripped back production, as this project initially began.
Hadestown is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus. In the natural world, the seasons have been thrown into chaos and the conditions grow tougher and colder by the day. We meet Eurydice (Eva Noblezada), a hungry girl who just about manages to survive each day. We also meet Orpheus (Reeve Carney), an artist working on a song to bring back order to the seasons.
When the two first meet they quickly fall in love and there is something endearing about their naivety. When Eurydice asks how are they going to get food for their wedding table, Orpheus replies ‘Lover, when I sing my song / All the trees gonna sing along / And bend their branches down to me / to lay their fruit around my feet”. They are full of hope and optimism for the future. Their love is brought to the test when Hades, God of the Underworld, enchants Eurydice to join him in Hadestown.
The central conflict seems to lie between two binary options: either you consent to a life of financial security and oppression in Hadestown; or choose a life of creative freedom and poverty in the world above. Once the audience are presented with this conflict the show does feel like it runs into pacing issues while attempting to reach a resolution. In the end, you do wonder after all the back and forth whether there is a salient message which the musical wants you to take away. I don’t really think there is.
The production design team made full use of the venue and different theatrical techniques to inject life into the story. There’s a roundtable, moving set pieces and in one scene in particular I like how these suspended factory lights were incorporated into the choreography. One minute you feel like you are in lover’s paradise with Orpheus and Eurydice, the next, you are in the dark and oppressive pits of Hadestown.
Eva Noblezada as Eurydice (Miss Saigon) is simply mesmerising. I couldn’t take my eyes off her in every scene she was in. She is a real triple threat. I was also initially impressed with Patrick Page (Hunchback of Notre Dame) as Hades. He was able to sing in a hauntingly low baritone key. But with time it became quite difficult for me to understand what he was saying.
When I heard the songs at first, a few stood out such as ‘Way Down Hadestown’ and ‘Why We Build the Wall’. It was only later on when I listened to the cast recording that I enjoyed the songs a lot more. It has a completely different vibe, more fragile. I’d say something may have been lost in translation but it’s hard to judge without seeing the original production.
Sometimes it’s hardest to write about shows that leave you feeling nothing in particular. I think it attempts to place a critique on modern society, but by the end, it doesn’t seem like it’s even sure itself what it wants to say. If you’d like to see it, it’s too late to do so in the West End but it’ll will be opening on Broadway soon. So if you’re willing to fly over you’re in luck.
Hadestown will begin previews on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre on March 22nd 2019 at the time of writing.