The Big Review: ‘Orpheus Descending’ at The Poor School

A trip to rapidly morphing King’s Cross is never short of a few surprises. On this occasion it’s not a …

A trip to rapidly morphing King’s Cross is never short of a few surprises. On this occasion it’s not a sweeping new concourse or world class menu that took us aback, but the possessing feeling of being transported to the American Deep South during troubled times.

‘Orpheus Descending’ is a lesser known but powerful Tennessee Williams play, chosen as one of the graduation shows for this year’s strikingly accomplished students at The Poor School.

The School has been scratching an acting itch for generations of those who initially didn’t choose the stage as a career path, alongside those that did. Therefore the intake is a nice mix of ages, abilities and agilities rather than only the preserve of relentless Bright Young Things.

Leading man Anton Moore plays the sexually smouldering Valentine with just the right mix of mistrust, opportunism, fear and snakeskin jacketed swag, whilst Grace-Ann Rossi cleverly steers the descent of middle aged proprietor, Lady, from once-carefree jolly Southern belle into emotionally-shattered wreck.

Also of note is Kentish Town girl Anneli Page’s classically off the rails Carol, who’s self-destructive sexuality also envelopes the whole room.

The production stays faithful to the play’s notes on how the set should be dressed, the dry goods store location reminding us of an Edward Hopper painting in its sparse surfaces and atmospheric shadows.

It’s instantly evocative of relentless heat, poverty, alcoholism and simmering racism, all primed to inevitably explode. A three hour commitment, perched on plastic chairs, it’s testament to both director and cast that the show holds the attention of the nearly full house right through to the chaos of the final scenes. This feels like way more than an end of term production.

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Orpheus Rising runs until Sunday 6th May at The Poor School. Tickets £8

Words & Pcs: Tom Kihl


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