Cherwell

The Corridor review – ‘a serious spectacle of operatic drama’

The Corridor

In an echoey chapel, on creaky pews, you could hear if anyone in the audience moved a muscle during the moments of silence which punctuate this operatic drama. Not a single person did. Such is the quality of this production of The Corridor. The cast, the crew and the musical players keep the audience absolutely riveted from the outset and throughout.

In Greek mythology, after Eurydice is bitten by a snake on the day she is wedded to Orpheus, he goes to Hades to bring her back from the dead. He is allowed to do so on the sole condition that at no point on the return he turns back to look at his bride. The Corridor captures the scene where, near the end of their homecoming, Orpheus turns and looks.

Traditionally the telling of this myth focuses on the Orpheus’ grief and despair at losing his beloved for a second time. Sean Kelly’s self-professed feminist reading of this narrative however grants Eurydice the license to demand better of her husband. The emphasis placed on Eurydice’s discontent in this production is striking; far from inducing a shared despair, Orpheus’ failure elicits an abject scorn that makes for intriguing drama.

You cannot help but notice the shift in tone upon entering New College chapel before taking your seats for The Corridor. The musicians wandering as shades of Hades, the Greek underworld, the rear wall of shadowy angels and the lone harp at the end of the nave give the distinct impression that what you’re about to see is a serious spectacle of operatic drama.

Hannah McDemott’s performance as Eurydice is genuinely outstanding. From the opening note she commands the audiences attention and delivers some stunning arias throughout. Truly hair-raising on a number of occasions, she thrives in her ambitious role. Her spoken parts are no less gripping, embodying the anger with which her character is filled with heart-felt acting and delivery.

Likewise, Harry O’Neil’s delivery of Orpheus was very good. Hearing his sorrowful tenor resonate in the vast space, he is not too hard to believe when he professes to have ventured to the gates of Hades and ‘unlocked the place with song.’ Overall both performers carried the show brilliantly, an extraordinary feat given that it was just those two singing for nearly an hour.

Using the nave of New College chapel as the physical stage for the corridor between Hades and earth was a masterstroke. For such a huge, high-ceilinged space it was mesmerisingly intimate. Every movement, every emotion in the players’ faces was immediately visible, literally touching distance away from the front row. What’s more Seb Dows-Miller and Sarah Wallace’s lighting setup fully realised the dramatic potential of the chapel. The back wall of angelic statues washed blue and scored with deep shadows set a domineering, ghostly backdrop for the production. At the foot of this great wall, a solo harpist (Aoife Miralles) divides the land of the living and the underworld, plucking up tension and stirring the action throughout.

I could not recommend this performance more highly. The setting makes it different from any other production you are likely to see. Furthermore, the vocal and musical talent of the players and cast make this show one not to be missed