Maud Dromgoole’s new work Acorn is a highly intelligent play in all aspects. It is a two-hander which uses the myths of Persephone and Eurydice to tell a contemporary story about female strength and resilience. The production brings these two characters’ stories together with a mesmerising collage of projected video sequences and choruses of audio storytelling.
On Eurydice’s wedding day she is thrilled to leave behind the oppressive world of her parents, and find happiness with her husband. She is continually plagued, however, by the myths which bear down upon her and the unshakeable feeling that her story is someone else’s, happening to her against her will. Persephone, conversely, doesn’t like stories, chatter, even politeness. She’s mainly just a doctor who doesn’t want anyone to die on her watch. Their stories collide on Eurydice’s wedding day, when her tragic fate presents itself as part of a story she hadn’t foreseen.
Deli Segal as Persephone brilliantly plays the part of a woman who is struggling to cope and trying not to drown at the same time. Her dark tone and exasperated manner fully realise the comedic nature of this quite reluctant tragic heroine. Her counterpoint is the more erratic and vulnerable Eurydice, who is played by Lucy Pickles with real commitment to the part. Her character, who oscillates between maturity and childishness amidst dreams and poisoned hallucinations, has the potential to become whimsical and shallow in tone. However, Pickles’ commitment to the characterisation of a slightly unstable Eurydice is ultimately effective and is well in keeping with the surreal and dream-like tone across the whole play. Her vocal work is particularly effective at denoting transitions in the nature of her character, which is crucial in helping the audience follow the disrupted chronology of events.
The simple set gives central focus to the video sequences which are projected onto transparent sheets hanging down across the stage. These are compiled of the shared stories of all our childhoods –fairy-tale myths and immortal cartoon characters, ranging from Snow White to Bambi to The Rugrats. The collective memories induced in the audience by these stories give the play its enveloping quality. The video and audio layering that develops across the course of the play is impressively well integrated into the story, serving a greater purpose than a dream-like ambience, and the audio storytelling is beautifully composed.
The strengths of this production lie in both the writing and the directing: the choreography and timing of the two leads are precise and well-executed, though they are complex, which allows the strength of the writing to shine through uninhibited. Dromgoole’s writing displays a very broad scope of imagination, and its ability to bring together dissonant elements of story and setting is what gives it its unusual quality. I would highly recommend watching this funny and surprising vision of two mythic female characters.
Acorn is playing at The Courtyard Theatre until October 29.
Photo: Hannah Ellis