Sunday, 25 February 2007

Hayley Clews reviews "Ted Hughes' Ovid", February 2007.

"Where does life end and art begin?" was the question asked by the cast of Ted
Hughes’ Tales from Ovid chose to explore, but the question posed for those
who came to see the play in The Cooler last week seemed more to be “where
does the audience end and the play begin?” Entering into a darkened space
with the lights already up and the actors dancing in intimate couples on
both levels of the stage, it was as if we were intruding late into a
mellow and tranquil scene, an atmosphere which was soon cut by a shout of
pain issued by James Marvin’s Ted Hughes/ Jupiter as his wife Sylvia bites
his lip, setting the scene for the inextricably linked passion and
violence which was to follow.

“Using Tim Supple’s engaging adaptation of Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid,
Hannah Pidsley and Katy Whitehead’s production focused on the classic
tragedy that is Ted Hughes’ and Sylvia Plath’s life together. The tales,
based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, were cleverly transformed into a fantasy
that surrounds the central couple. At the heart of this play was
transformation itself, with the cast of eleven assuming 36 roles, changing
character as many times as their characters changed form. The difficulties
of a production on a tight budget were realising the necessary
transformations in the script as humans change into birds, trees and
flowers. These were realised through simple and stylised gestures; two
branches and a chair symbolised Myrrah’s metamorphosis into a tree,
allowing the audience to concentrate on the look of anguish on her face
rather than her costume.

“The choice of cast appeared flawless and the nature of the play allowed
each member to shine in a prominent role: Sam Smith was especially good as the debauched god Bacchus, playing the part with a listing drunken grace
and jaunty cocked hat. Claire Trevien’s Sylvia/ Juno had a fragility of
mind and movement counter-balanced exactly by James’ violent strength.
Their relationship worked so well as a framing device for the stories that
it would be difficult for anyone who saw the play to see it imagined in
any other way. The passion of the central relationship was brought out not
only in the bed scenes, where the bed was the central object on stage, but
also through violence, as their electrifying relationship turns to
bitterness, resentment and eventually death, demonstrating the shifting identities

and destructive nature of love in it's many forms."

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