3 Stars

★★★ Review of Maud Dromgoole’s ‘Acorn’ at The Courtyard

acorn-c-hannah-ellis-14Acorn is a modern reworking of two Greek myths, and tells the stories of Persephone and Eurydice without the distraction of their male counterparts. It isn’t an Angry-Young-Woman play, railing against the patriarchy; it’s a clever use of an ancient tale that provides an amusing insight into the lives of modern women.

While no prior knowledge of Greek myths is needed to be able to access the stories on stage, it is much more enjoyable if you know that Eurydice was bitten by a serpent and was very nearly rescued by Orpheus from Underworld. Equally, it helps to know that Persephone is forced to stay in the Underworld because she was tricked into eating some pomegranate seeds.

Now, whilst there is some overlap of Persephone and Eurydice in the Greek Myths, what is interesting about Maud Dromgoole’s script is the way she weaves the lives of these two characters together in a modern context. Persephone [Deli Segal] is a stoic doctor working on a palliative ward, providing end-of-life care in an NHS hospital. Segal’s deadpan delivery of Persephone’s attitude to patient care and her failed attempts at cultivating a bedside manner draws lots of laughs from the audience.

acorn-c-hannah-ellis-7Eurydice’s destiny is a consultation with Dr Persephone. Part nymph, part Disney princess, Eurydice is primed for marriage from childhood, but her wedding day ends in tragedy when she is bitten by a snake. It takes time for her character to build to the complexity of Persephone’s, and at times the duo’s joint monologues are a little one-sided, with the audience’s attention on the doctor rather than the patient. This is not a result of Lucy Pickles’ performance, who has the audience is stitches during Eurydice’s hair-removal scene, rather it’s a case of waiting for the various mythic elements to develop so that the plot can reach its pinnacle.

At 60 minutes it’s a neat little play, and works really well in the upstairs space of The Courtyard. The video projections which are used to punctuate the scenes also provide a visual emphasis of the themes in Dromgoole’s scrip; creating a mash-up of various movie dance scenes that remind us of Persephone dancing herself to death. The voice-overs from the characters of Sam and Dave seem a little extraneous, and it didn’t help that these audio interludes were used as fillers between scenes so their content washed over the audience rather than having a proper impact.

These quibbles aside, Acorn is a witty play with confident direction from Tatty Hennessy. Think of this as cerebral piece of fringe theatre; holds your attention throughout and gives you plenty to discuss over a post-show drink.

Acorn plays at The Courtyard until October 29th.

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