Yesterday evening, the Drama Barn was transported to a small general store in the Deep South for a production of Tennessee Williams’s Orpheus Descending. With lynchings, racism and the howls of dogs chasing runaway prisoners, Orpheus Descending is anything but light and breezy. It is laced with injustices and hardships, with the happiness of the warmest characters being shattered by the destructive effect of the coldest. The arrival of a mysterious man in a snakeskin jacket to the small town sparks a disturbing chain of unfortunate events culminating in heartbreak and death.
Zoe Biles lead the cast beautifully with her portrayal of Lady Torrance, the victim of mistreatment whose fiery nature yet frantic disposition left the audience with a sense of concern for the lonely protagonist. The intimacy of the Drama Barn worked wonderfully by bringing the audience as close as possible to the evident distress and loneliness of the character. She played her Lady Torrance with the style and complexity it required encouraging the audience’s sympathies through her misfortune.
Alongside Lady Torrance was the mysterious snakeskin clad, guitar-clutching drifter, played by Angus Bower-Brown. Bower-Brown’s performance was strong, and the two protagonists played out their romance with the frenzied passion with which they were designed. His honest portrayal of Val was clearest when singing. His musical prowess and rich voice filled the Drama Barn and acted as a welcome break from the often-heavy dialogue.
The large supporting cast acted well under the size constraints of the Drama Barn. The space seemed to squeeze the cast of around fifteen into sometimes-uncomfortable intimacy, yet was managed with professionalism. The accent work and intensity with which the supporting cast performed should be commended. Particular attention must go to the character of Dolly Hamma, played by Sam Finlay, who held an exceptional talent for comedic timing. Her character may have been a negative one, yet her performance left nothing but a positive impact on the production.
The set design for this production was incredibly detailed and demands great credit. The wooden paneling created a dusty and isolated feel, whilst the attention to detail given to the props did not go unnoticed. Unfortunately, there appeared to be inconsistencies in the time period expressed by the garments. Comedic characters should have held more faith in their talents, with the pantomime fashion and heavy make up of some distracting from their performances.
Dramasoc remains able to entertain their audiences whilst not faltering to deliver stirring performances with often-uncomfortable messages. Orpheus Descending was a wonderful production, with an unwavering level of intensity and evident talent.