Words by and Music by Jacques Offenbach
Nuffield Theatre,
June 1994
Cast List
Aristaeus / Pluto

Notes on this performance

81. Orpheus in the Underworld                 

Naughty but nice…

If you accept that Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld is performed best as a bawdy romp (the 1987 production was thought to be ‘too provocative’ by some), then there could be no better director for the job than Philip de Grouchy and when he is paired with Paul Spanton as MD, both rehearsals and performances are guaranteed to be thoroughly enjoyable.

The old Gregg School in Winn Road was used as a rehearsal venue but its hall had a very low ceiling fan: this was not a problem until David Jupp (Jupiter), Tony Austin (Styx), Matthew Claisse (Mars) and Aidan Lawrence (Mercury) were required to lift Wendy Dalton (Chief Bachante) above their heads whilst rehearsing Cherchez la Femme – DYT came close to losing its director that evening!

Philip’s vision brought some remarkable images to the stage - many of the ladies were initially dressed as sheep, John Miller became a sheepdog, Martin Paterson (wearing full Biggles regalia) was Icarus, the pilot of a balloon which bore more than a passing resemblance to a large condom whilst Colin Sly (Pluto) somehow had a snake for a tail! Act 1 ended with Martin’s balloon leaving Mount Olympus and disappearing into the distance (an effect created via some cut out models and wires). All would have been well if it had not insisted on occasionally crashing into the scenery.

Richard Wilkin and Margaret Amey played the lead roles of Orpheus and Eurydice (a married couple who did not like each other at all); Richard’s costume consisted of a pink tunic, pink stockings and shoes plus a pink hat topped off with an enormous pink feather – nobody was under any illusions as to why he did not get on with Eurydice… He also spoke in a voice which strongly resembled Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em - the audience loved him!

Margaret, on the other hand, wore very little and during the bath scene (where she sang the Fly Duet with Jupiter) she wore slightly less than that! It was one of those moments when the audience sat transfixed in total silence. Other main principal parts went to Adrienne Bath (Juno), Janet Green (Venus), Aidan Lawrence (Mercury), Christina Smith (Cupid), Alex Mackintosh (Diana) and Heather Walford (Calliope).

Unlike The Beggar’s Opera, there was no need for Philip to write an orgy scene as Orpheus in the Underworld comes fully equipped with its own and seeing Martin disappearing beneath a pile of Bachantes was worth the admission price alone! Six young ladies from a local dance school provided the obligatory Can-Can and ‘brought the house down’ every night.

SOS is, perhaps, at its best when it takes a few risks and pushes the boundaries of acceptable taste back a little and Orpheus certainly did that. It was a show enjoyed by all involved and the company was rewarded with standing ovations and many unplanned extra curtain calls – somehow, it still made a loss of £1186.

Terry O'Farrell

The first three 'action photos' were taken in a run through before the scenery was painted.

Photo of Sheep

Richard Wilkin (Orpheus) with his mother, Heather Walford (Calliope)

Photo of Orpheus

Colin Sly (Aristaeus the Shepherd / Pluto) with his flock.

Photo of the Gods 

Janet Green (Venus), John Miller (Vulcan), Christina Smith (Cupid), Aidan Lawrence (Mercury), David Jupp (Jupiter), Adrienne Bath (Juno), Alex Mackintosh (Diana), Matthew Claisse (Mars)

 Photo of Eurydice

The set has now been painted! David Jupp (Jupiter) with Margaret Amey (Eurydice)