In a world where January seemed never-ending, deadlines were looming and Donald Trump had just become the President of the USA, there was a desperate need for some glitter, magic and light relief in all our lives. As we stumbled into a transformed dance studio of the Guild for the final night of ‘Psyche’, a physical theatre extravaganza brought to us by University of Birmingham’s 3Bugs Fringe Theatre, it became immediately clear we would become fully immersed in this magical world, if only for a few hours. I was immediately struck by the festival atmosphere, like Glastonbury in June brought to a rainy Birmingham Friday night in the middle of January; a live 4 piece band played hits such as A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ whilst the cast danced barefoot with glitter on their faces, encouraging the audience to sit on cushions and engaging in conversation with us. The cast drew us into an immersive and welcoming atmosphere before the play had even started, giving this reviewer an impression of a Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired travelling theatre troupe. Before we knew what had hit us, the show was under way- with the cast breaking the fourth wall for the first time by talking directly to the audience and setting the scene of the story; based on the Roman myth of Cupid and Psyche. In this retelling, the beautiful Psyche is exiled by a jealous goddess Venus, only for Venus’ son Cupid to fall in love with her. However all is not well as Psyche’s curiosity about her mysterious lover propels her life into danger, as she must perform a number of seemingly impossible tasks in order to appease the dangerous goodness Venus and escape the plotting of her two jealous sisters.
The story was brought to life with the introduction of the main characters, with Jade Corbett as the wide-eyed Psyche and the sisters, played by Olivia O’Neil and Katie Adams, who displayed excellent comic timing as well as conveying the cruelty and ruthlessness of the fearsome pair. Rosie Solomon was a stand out turn in her role as Venus, perfectly executing the manipulative and cruel side of the character, especially in the second half when she reaches her peak of viciousness, subjecting Psyche to torture and humiliation. Solomon also was sensual, funny and charismatic in her portrayal, as the goddess of love should be. The supporting cast was also very impressive, with Nils Klein and Martha Powell-Dooley taking on a number of different roles, clearly distinguishing between each character through their physicality and voice. The cast as a whole contributed to the physical nature of the show- working as an ensemble to transform into furniture, animals and a number of other parts of the story whilst also providing support for the more complex physical shapes and lifts which were all perfectly executed.
What was immediately evident was the work the cast had put in to achieving the complexity of the physical theatre, with many characters being lifted into the air and suspended in certain positions, giving a truly interesting and dynamic element to the tale. A special mention must be given to the excellent chemistry between the lovers Cupid and Psyche, played by Joe Bonfield and Jade Corbett, who moved wonderfully together, which was shown in their love scene, with lots of difficult physical movements being performed with grace and ease- conveying to the audience the passionate relationship between the two. Other notable scenes include Psyche’s travel into the underworld, where the cast appeared as terrifying residents of the underworld; with the musicians adding to the tense and foreboding atmosphere.
Ultimately, Psyche was truly something different; a fun, original and beautiful tour de force excellently fusing music, dance, acting and a sprinkle of mischief along with overwhelming professionalism. Physical theatre can at times seem daunting, yet director Laurs Oakley expertly brought together a beautiful and mystical tale, which seemed to flow seamlessly from one scene to the next. I am excited to see what the 2nd year director turns her talents to next, as this production was a truly original and joyous experience from start to finish.