THE Citizen’s Theatre is home to what has been described as the first classical operetta.
Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld opens tonight and runs until Sunday.
It is a reworking of a Greek myth about a musician known as “that father of songs”.
In Offenbach’s comedic interpretation, Orpheus and his wife Eurydice are a warring couple who hate each other.
Orpheus is in love with a shepherdess called Chloe while Eurydice is in love with a shepherd named Aristaeus.
However, Aristaeus is really Pluto — the king of the underworld — and he takes Eurydice down to his domain.
Orpheus must enter the underworld to bring his errant wife back.
This story has been interpreted many times.
On film, it was told by the magnificent French artist Jean Cocteau.
But even the he would raise an eyebrow at this take on the old tale.
The story has been rewritten in a new translation by Rory Bremner — the comedian and political satirist.
Bremner has considerably updated the tale and uses it to take a swipe at the Bullingdon club — an exclusive drinking club for wealthy Oxford university students such as prime minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Bremner said: “Offenbach was sending up the gods and the second empire of Napoleon III.
“What we wanted to do was bring it more up to date and actually have references to our own government and our own time, which aren’t literal.
“They’re there for people to work them out”.
Bremner is very enthused about the change of setting — substituting the Bullingdon for the realm of the gods.
He continued: “I think it would be a missed opportunity to just play it straight — almost as a pastiche of classical drama.
“It’s coming at a time when the coalition is coming under stress but the characters don’t really resonate with the public so in some ways it’s like a stealth government — people you’ve never heard of doing things you wouldn’t believe.
“The gods are decadent and quarrelsome and I think Oliver Mears [the director] is quite keen to play up the sense of the Bullingdon club and the Etonian government”.
Sounds like it could be another winner for the Citz — old school tie optional.