REVIEW: ★★★ Orpheus Descending, Menier Chocolate Factory

The Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre is a gorgeous little space, lending itself rather beautifully to Tenessee Williams’ simmering Deep South drama. The low ceilings, wooden flooring and a clever lighting design (by Tim Mascall) brings Jonathan Fensom’s design to life compellingly and a talented ensemble cast hold the audience spellbound.

For the entire first act it is impossible to escape being drawn into the quiet, slow, claustrophobic world that Orpheus Descending creates – a small judgmental town in America’s south which is rocked with the arrival of womanising musician Val (Seth Numrich, complex and brooding in a snakeskin jacket). The town gossips are vicious, the men cruel and the past inescapable – Lady Torrance, a middle aged shopkeeper whose elderly husband is dying, is utterly trapped in her grocery store.

Hattie Morahan is excellent as Lady – commanding the stage easily with an assured and often poignant performance. She is supported ably by the rest of the cast – Jemima Rooper as town troublemaker Carol is a particular stand out, and Carol Royle as the blind artist Vee gives a touching and convincing performance. The distinctive American accents do have a tendency to slip but in general, the acting is very capable.

The direction, perhaps less so – particularly after the interval. As Williams’ script intensifies – which I’m sure could be wonderfully effective if handled in a careful way – Tamara Harvey’s direction sees the second half of the play spiral into a cacophony of shrieks and ceaseless movement, and by the point of the production’s climax, there is really nowhere left for the drama to escalate. A shame that Harvey didn’t use the intimacy of the space to make the second act a little more restrained.


Beth Pratt

Beth Pratt
Beth Pratt

Beth Pratt is a huge fan of theatre who fell into stage managing after studying English at the University of Exeter. She has been working in theatres across London and the UK for the past year. In her spare time she sings loudly in the shower, tries out fad exercises and tells people about her new puppy.


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