REVIEW: Hadestown – Lyric Theatre – West End


5 years after its original London premiere pre-Broadway at the National Theatre, Hadestown has arrived back in London at a new West End home. With a stellar cast and a hypnotically beautiful score, Hadestown is the jewel in the crown of musical excellence in the West End; it is not only a theatrical spectacle but also a testament to the rich tapestry of British talent. The production seamlessly weaves together elements of ancient Greek mythology with modern storytelling, all while showcasing the diverse range of accents and cultural influences that define contemporary Britain.

Hadestown is a captivating musical that intertwines two mythic love stories against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world. Set in the underworld ruled by the enigmatic Hades and his wife Persephone, the narrative follows the journey of Orpheus, a gifted musician, as he descends into the depths of despair to rescue his beloved Eurydice. Along the way, the audience is immersed in a world where gods and mortals collide, where love and redemption are sought amidst the darkness, and where hope and despair dance in a delicate balance. Through its mesmerizing music, compelling characters, and timeless themes, Hadestown invites audiences to contemplate the power of love, the resilience of the human spirit, and the eternal struggle between light and shadow.

Eurydice is a poignant embodiment of human longing and resilience, portrayed with depth and vulnerability by Grace Hodgett-Young. As the object of Orpheus’s unwavering love, Eurydice represents the universal quest for fulfilment and belonging. Hodgett-Young’s portrayal captures Eurydice’s journey from innocence to disillusionment with nuance and grace, infusing the character with a quiet strength and determination. With her Northern accent adding authenticity to her portrayal, Hodgett-Young’s Eurydice is both relatable and heartrending, drawing the audience into her emotional turmoil and ultimate quest for redemption. As she navigates the trials of the underworld, Eurydice becomes a symbol of hope and resilience, reminding audiences of the power of love to conquer even the darkest of shadows. The characterisation of Eurydice is somewhat problematic, however. Eurydice is so hardened to the world that her skepticism and fear permeate into her relationship with Orpheus, thus not fully ensuring a buy-in from the audience. It feels often, particularly in Act 1, like Orpheus loves Eurydice tenfold more than she loves him.

Orpheus stands as a beacon of unwavering love and artistic brilliance, brought to life with raw emotion and grit by Dónal Finn. As the dreamer and musician who ventures into the depths of the underworld to rescue his beloved Eurydice, Orpheus embodies the timeless archetype of the hero on a quest. Finn’s portrayal of Orpheus is marked by a captivating intensity, his performance infused with passion and vulnerability that resonates with audiences on a profound level. With his charming Irish accent lending authenticity to his portrayal, Finn’s Orpheus is a complex and multifaceted character, grappling with the depths of despair and the heights of hope as he embarks on his epic journey. Through his stirring vocals and compelling stage presence, Finn brings Orpheus to life in all his flawed, yet undeniably heroic, glory, leaving an indelible impression on all who witness his captivating performance.

Persephone emerges as a figure of both light and shadow, portrayed with exquisite depth and complexity by the talented Gloria Onitiri. As the queen of the underworld and the goddess of spring, Persephone embodies the duality of nature itself, her character a captivating blend of warmth and melancholy. Onitiri’s portrayal of Persephone is a masterclass in nuance, her performance is infused with a magnetic charm and a quiet strength that draws the audience into her orbit. Onitiri’s Persephone is a study in contrasts, her moments of joy tinged with sorrow, her laughter masking a deeper pain. Through her powerful vocals and dynamic stage presence, Onitiri brings Persephone to life in all her complexity, capturing the essence of a goddess torn between duty and desire. In Onitiri’s capable hands, Persephone becomes a figure of enduring fascination, her story a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love to transcend even the darkest of shadows.

Hades reigns as the formidable king of the underworld, portrayed with commanding presence and complexity by Zachary James. As the lord of the dead, Hades embodies both power and vulnerability, his character shrouded in layers of darkness and longing. James’s portrayal of Hades is a tour de force, his deep voice and imposing stature commanding the stage with an air of authority and menace. Yet beneath his steely exterior lies a heart tormented by love and loss, a depth of emotion that James brings to life with haunting poignancy. Portraying the antagonist with a complex, likeable side, James’s Hades is a captivating blend of strength and vulnerability, his presence looming large over the stage like a shadowy spectre. Through his nuanced performance, James delves into the complexities of Hades’s character, revealing the humanity beneath the myth and leaving audiences spellbound by his haunting portrayal. 

Hermes is the charismatic and enigmatic guide who leads both the characters and the audience on a journey through the underworld and back again. Portrayed with captivating charm and wisdom, Hermes serves as the narrator and guardian of the story, weaving together the threads of myth and reality with lyrical storytelling and magnetic presence. Melanie La Barrie’s portrayal of Hermes infuses the character with warmth, wit, and a hint of world-weary wisdom, making her a captivating presence on stage. As the messenger of the gods, Hermes embodies the dual nature of the human experience, balancing light and darkness, hope and despair, in a way that resonates deeply with audiences throughout the show. La Barrie’s Trinidadian accent adds a power, strength and rhythm to the character and causes Hermes to click perfectly with the score.

The Fates weave the threads of destiny with ethereal grace and haunting beauty. Bella Brown, Madeline Charlemagne, and Allie Daniel bring these enigmatic figures to life with mesmerizing performances that transcend time and space. As the embodiment of fate and fortune, the Fates command the stage with an otherworldly presence, their voices blending in eerie harmony as they shape the destinies of mortals and gods alike. Brown, Charlemagne, and Daniel infuse their portrayals with a sense of mystery and allure, their movements fluid and hypnotic, their expressions inscrutable yet compelling. With each haunting melody and cryptic prophecy, the Fates cast a spell over the audience, drawing them deeper into the web of fate that binds the characters of Hadestown together. Through their mesmerizing performances, Brown, Charlemagne, and Daniel embody the timeless power of destiny, reminding us that our lives are but threads in the tapestry of the universe, woven by the hands of unseen forces.

The Workers (ensemble) serve as the backbone of society, their tireless labour driving the engine of the underworld’s economy. Portrayed with authenticity and depth by Lauren Azania, Tiago Dhondt Bamberger, Beth Hinton-Lever, Waylon Jacobs, and Christopher Short, the Workers embody the struggles and aspirations of the working class. Each member of the ensemble brings a unique perspective to their role, their performances infused with a raw energy and passion that resonates with audiences. With their diverse backgrounds and talents, the Workers represent the melting pot of humanity, their voices rising in solidarity and defiance against the injustices of their world. Through their powerful vocals and dynamic choreography, the Workers breathe life into the streets of Hadestown, their presence a testament to the resilience and spirit of the human soul. 

Anaïs Mitchell’s lyrics are nothing short of poetic, weaving together intricate storytelling with rich imagery and metaphor. Each song is a masterpiece in its own right, conveying complex emotions and themes with haunting beauty. Mitchell’s ability to capture the essence of the human experience is truly remarkable, and her lyrics serve as the beating heart of the production.

The creative team behind the West End premiere of Hadestown at the Lyric Theatre is a powerhouse of talent, each member contributing their expertise to bring Anaïs Mitchell’s visionary project to life on stage. Led by director Rachel Chavkin, the team has crafted a production that seamlessly blends mythic storytelling with contemporary sensibilities, creating a theatrical experience that is both timeless and relevant.

Chavkin’s direction is masterful, guiding the cast and crew with precision and insight to create a cohesive and immersive world onstage. Her ability to balance the epic scope of the story with intimate character moments is evident throughout the production, drawing audiences into the emotional journey of the characters.

Choreographer David Neumann’s work adds an extra layer of dynamism to the production, with his inventive and evocative choreography bringing the world of Hadestown to life in stunning detail. From the haunting movements of the Fates to the vibrant energy of the Workers, Neumann’s choreography enhances the storytelling and adds depth to the characters.

Set designer Rachel Hauck’s vision transforms the stage into a multi-dimensional underworld, with her intricate and innovative designs creating a sense of grandeur and intimacy simultaneously. Her use of space and texture adds depth and richness to the production, transporting audiences to a world that is both fantastical and familiar. The descents and ascents to the underworld are portrayed masterfully and demonstrate an incredible use of staging and set.

Costume designer Michael Krass’s work is equally impressive, with his stunning costumes reflecting the characters’ personalities and the world they inhabit. From the elegant attire of the gods to the rugged garb of the Workers, Krass’s designs help to define the characters and enhance the overall aesthetic of the production.

Lighting designer Bradley King’s contributions are also crucial to the production, with his expert use of light and shadow creating mood and atmosphere onstage. Many moments in the show allow you to truly appreciate this wonderful lighting design – injecting energy at some points and inflicting emotion at others. Shadows are thrown onto the wall as light hits characters in atmospheric moments. The intensity of the lighting in other moments is startling.

Overall, Hadestown is a theatrical tour de force that captivates audiences from start to finish. With its stunning visuals, mesmerising music, and powerhouse performances, it is a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the boundless creativity of the human spirit. It is a must-see production for fans of musicals, love stories or a high-quality night out. I’ve already booked my next visit!

Hadestown plays at the Lyric Theatre, London and is currently booking up until December 2024.

Photos throughout from Marc Brenner






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