WRITTEN, DESIGNED AND DIRECTED BY BRETT BAILEY
“In Orfeus, Bailey searches out softer tissue, our vulnerabilities, the marrow in our bones, the chasms in our souls.”
– MAIL & GUARDIAN
“The fading light, the scent of woodsmoke and wildflowers, and the sound of birdsong weave themselves through… haunting soundscapes to multiply the sensory and emotional impact of this quirky Orfeus… A gem in this year’s Holland Festival.”
– FINANCIAL TIMES
“I was completely transported, swept away, overcome… An astonishing rendition of the birth of tragedy.”
AN INTRODUCTION BY BRETT BAILEY, AUGUST 2020:
ORFEUS is a continuation of my exploration of the intersections between myth and contemporary events, ritual and theatrical performance, dream and waking reality, and between the immigrant and the shaman as traversers of frontiers. I visited this myth about 10 years ago, and am making a new adaptation for 2021.
The classical myth of Orpheus is well known: the semi-divine poet-musician who reveals the inner harmony of the universe with his songs, and who fails in his attempt to retrieve his dead bride from the Underworld, after which his songs are shadowed by grief…
A primary objective of mine is to create work that activates deep feeling – within both performers and spectators – something beyond the rational and closer to the spiritual. ORFEUS is staged as an immersive, meditative, understated ritual, in which the exquisite music played by the lead performer takes us through the wonder that awakens nature, the epiphany of love, the heartbreak of loss, to a confrontation with utter darkness and a reconciliation with death and impermanence. The poetic narration that floats upon the music and soundscapes, holds the piece together.
Whereas Samson – the mythological hero of my last work – actualizes the archetypal rage of the underdog, Orfeus embodies a consciousness that constructs meaning, integrates experience and deepens understanding in the crucible of the imagination. The work ponders the role of the artist today, and wonders what songs are to be sung when we emerge from the period of darkness that afflicts us.
The intended premiere of ORFEUS is March 2021 in South Africa. This is of course dependant on the trajectory of the pandemic.
In response to the physical distancing precautions of the Corona era, the staging of ORFEUS is really flexible. It can be staged outdoors in a natural environment, in an enclosed roofless courtyard, in a cavernous ‘found space’, or in a black box theatre. A beautiful location will augment the liminal magic that I want to create.
The work has 10 performers, including 4 singer-musicians. The travelling company is 15. Owing to the uncertainty of this moment, the work has not yet been cast.
All the text is spoken by a narrator in English. For countries where English is not the lingua franca this narrator could be replaced with someone who can perform the text in translation. I am also very interested in the possibility of remaking the work in different countries: I would spend several weeks in a city, creating a unique version of the work with local artists.
There was no music
Nothing to hum when you’re happy or sad
There were gunshots and there was weeping
There were hisses and growls
The cold ringing of fear
The clatter of laughter
A dull buzzing that went on forever
If there was we could not hear it
He brought us music
Taught us to sing
And slowly we began to understand”