Oxford Playhouse
12th November, 2021-11-15

The Oxford Play house has celebrated its first return to the stage since the pandemic with musical play about the ancient tale of the heroine Persephone. This Jazz Hands Production relives the Greek story that portrays pivotal standpoints for both gods and mortals. A show lovingly created by the Play house students with the full and touching return to the stage with an important play.

In a jovial mood then the rewriting of this story began with Persephone and her mother Demeter tending to the seasons of the planet (being the gods of Harvest) with Persephone being a most beautiful of daughters but whose father was Zeus himself, king of the Greek gods. As they tended their earthly paradise that mortals survive we found them in a forest with Demeter concerned about her daughter’s position in the world.

Persephone’s young and freely innocent spirit desired more out of her life but of the outside world she had no idea. As she dreamed her songs exclaimed her feelings where all she could do was yearn for tomorrow, with the fates already deliberating her coming adventures. She left her home one night answering the call that her heart had made to her. And when she returned Demeter tried to tell her daughter that the world out there was not as she thought.

Persephone’s powerfully beautiful character so comprised of two great and powerful gods brought her to spend a night without coming home which set her mother Demeter’s worry into overdrive.

She had gone far into the woods (world) and it became clear that she had fallen for someone she met in a gathering. When she went out to meet him again they tried to talk he reluctantly introduced himself as none other than Hades up from his realm hell. It was the beginning of the life she yearned for. It was too strong to ignore though into peril she went, with her mother’s warnings were thrown to the wind.

The classic story from ancient Greece involved their gods who ruled Olympus, the heaven of the Greek world. Persephone’s fates started to become of importance as Zeus himself had willed. The idea of Olympus was portrayed as nothing more than a comfortable office inundated with paper work at desks and continuing the downplaying Hell was a world of quiet and peace.

Written and directed by Emma Hawkins this magically endearing ploy was a match of music set design and costumes all of which complimented the other very nicely and of good taste in order to bring the story to life in a most refined fashion, yet all without fancy, even Zeus wore a smart suit without the smallest hint of gold or any other precious metals.

Hades and Persephone had a deepening and profound love that struck them both without being able to think on anything else. But Hades despaired his position and left his home to speak with Zeus. Who enjoyed tormenting his brother encouraging Hades to do as he pleased, the world of Persephone was to be upset and turned round by events to follow.

The Muses/chorus wore their garlanded and flowery togas, sang in their tradition dancing ad joining the gods both pushing and pulling them, reflecting the plot of Persephone’s imminent demise. She who only knew that love may be a great adventure.

It didn’t stop her from being heinously broken by the advances of Zeus. She found herself in Olympus conversing with him. He explained that her absence from duty had caused cold weather and starvation. And as we saw her break from his careless violence the lights stopping was very meaningful.

The vying story that had been thrown open; became quiet and tender when to console her in stepped Aphrodite (the goddess of love). We were all by now on a flying adventure through the worlds and heavens; all the while taking its time to tell the story that simply rolled around the stage. The great use of the reality of Persephone’s trials came in spoken word and music to take the show away.

The motherly wisdom of Demeter knew what would happen to Persephone. She left to look for her daughter the second time she went missing. Her grief was at hand when he heard what had happened. In her heart she found resolve to forgive and take care of her daughter.

It was Zeus who played the villain not Hades, though he also didn’t always seem to be entirely on the level. Our attentions were stretched by the precise nuances. Hermes, Hera, Zeus and Hades; we still revel in these names but do we understand them and their very nature?

The presence of folk music, costumes and storytelling, the play had a fresh and new example to make with Olympus seeming to be a victim of its own crime. Aphrodite’s part was of the wounds being healed. She sprang around with Persephone, singing songs and drinking some. She gave Persephone a new reason to live and held her in her darkest hour. The personalities of the gods took on an interesting identity as benevolent yet confined by their individual duties.

As she regained her strength Persephone returned home to be reunited with her mother. The sweetness of this scene rivalled all the scenes of the gods. And they ever so faintly sensitive sang and rejoiced. Quietly they understood each other’s toil and turmoil, with the whim of things being almost forgotten.

It’s hard not to think of this play as being perfect. Such an evening of good theatre retelling a tale with every kind of metaphorical fruit lade bear, lavishly told with grace and exciting music, in a set and performance that was most sad but most loving with nature at its heart. A witness brought about through tragic betrayal of to the beauty that can live in life.

Persephone and Hades remained in love and of the future nobody would know, but we came to revel in the story of a journey’s timeless all pervading story that has truly stood the test of time, still as vibrant, new and refreshing, classically portrayed for any modern era.

Daniel Donnelly

Posted on November 16, 2021, in 2021. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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