Theatre within the Budget: Hadestown

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Volunteer Milly Harrison provides a great nugget of info for those looking to get their dose of culture on a budget.

 

Starting life over ten years ago as a community theatre ‘folk opera’ and later becoming a concept album, Anaïs Mitchell’s hit musical Hadestown has origins much more humble than its forthcoming Broadway transfer might suggest. Today it serves as a modern retelling of ancient myths, complete with revolving stage and diverse cast of talented performers.

It deviates most obviously from its mythological roots in that the female lead Eurydice carves her own fate in this story – she chooses to leave her poet lover Orpheus, and take the train down to Hadestown in search of something more. Whilst it’s easy to pity Eurydice, it feels hard to bond with Orpheus – he’s so busy writing songs that will ‘save the world’ that he fails to notice his girlfriend starving to death/making a deal with the devil before it’s too late.

Following Eurydice, we arrive at another unconventional destination – instead of fire and fury, this version of Hell is a ‘neon necropolis’ of modern day factories, huge warehouses, and sky high walls to ward off intruders. This is what first grabs your attention about this show – despite being so long in production, these themes and symbolic messages make Hadestown feel incredibly current and somewhat inadvertently, politically charged. With songs such as “Why We Build The Wall” on the track-list, it’s easy to see why people are eagerly awaiting its reception in the US.

However, what grabbed me most about this production was not ‘Love’s Young Dream’, but instead the bitter and estranged love of the other couple in this tale – Lord and Lady of the Underworld, Hades and Persephone. Often presented as a sweet and inexperienced girl in ancient myth, Hadestown’s Persephone is a dazzling and gravelly alcoholic plotting against her austere hubby Hades, who’s trying to patch up his frayed relationship in an entirely misguided fashion.

These two completely stole the show for me – they provide the twenty-first century cynicism needed to keeps Orpheus’ lovestruck optimism and naivety from being overwhelming. Wrapping the whole affair up in riotous New Orleans Jazz from a truly fantastic on-stage band and the addition of a suave narrator in Hermes definitely didn’t hurt either. 

I managed to catch the show as part of the theatre’s Entry Pass scheme for Under 25s, which makes live theatre financially accessible for young people. Loughborough’s close proximity to London is a blessing for seeing shows like Hadestown and over the last year I’ve entered the world of 16-25 ticket schemes, making the whole affair cheaper still.

These schemes are a fantastic way to enable young people to see live theatre on the cheap and most of London’s producing theatres have them. I’ve used National Theatre’s Entry Pass scheme six times in the last twelve months, and with each ticket costing only £7.50, that’s cumulatively still less than the price of a regular seat in the stalls (with many of my cheap seats being on the front row too).

Booking single tickets is half the fun too as they’re sold in blocks which almost certainly guarantees an interesting conversation during the interval with other likeminded young people around you. Some of my most notable conversations include a Canadian actor giving us insight into the audition process at LAMDA, an aspiring director sharing her wisdom with us following an internship on Broadway, and more recently, that Orpheus (Reeve Carney) played the incredibly important role of ‘Love Interest’ in a Taylor Swift music video, much to the delight of the girl sitting next to me as she rifled through his IMDb. 

These schemes have opened up a whole world of theatre for me, from musicals like Hadestown, to modern takes on Shakespeare, even to brand new plays that I’ve arrived to see knowing nothing more than just the title. I can only encourage you to make use of these Under 25 ticket schemes whilst you can – it’s a great way to ensure our generation don’t miss out on the wonder of live theatre, and for the price of a round at the Union, you’ve barely got an excuse not to.

 

Featured image by: Amie Woodyatt

Image used in header from Hadestown, Righteous Babe Records

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About Author

Label Editor for 2018-19; nominated for best volunteer writing at the 2018 Media Awards; a dog person.

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