FaultyOptic and Mira Calix commissioned by Manchester International Festival and Opera North Projects and presented in association with The Library Theatre, Manchester
To mark the 400th anniversary of the invention of opera, Faulty Optic and Mira Calix re-invent one of the great myths in a visual and sonic feast.
In the original Greek myth... Eurydice dies tragically on her wedding day but Orpheus, her fiancée, bargains to bring her back from the Land of the Dead.
Greedy to gaze upon his bride once more, Orpheus breaks the deal he has made with Pluto, the god of Hades, and Eurydice is lost forever. Orpheus’ moans of anguish enrage the once friendly Bacchae, who rip him to shreds before throwing his dismembered body into the river where his head can still be heard singing.
In DeadWedding... Orpheus has found most of his strewn body parts except his legs. But he finds himself in Hades and of course ... he’s dead.
If he remarries Eurydice underground, all will be fine; they will be together for eternity. But she has a more pressing task as she desperately tries to wash something terrible away. Slowly her faltering memories start to corrode as the ferryman churns up the filthy waters sending ripples throughout the whole of the Underworld.
In DeadWedding, cult puppetry company Faulty Optic and contemporary composer Mira Calix go underground to pick up the tale where the ancient myth ends. With Faulty’s macabre humour, and Calix’s subterranean soundworlds, 'Dead Wedding' uses puppets, film, laptop, live musicians and strangely distorted voices to re-mix the Orpheus tale for the 21st century.
Conceived and designed by FaultyOptic
Music composed and performed by Mira Calix
Live music performed by musicians from Opera North
Performed by: Gavin Glover, Liz Walker, and Leah Morgan
Directed by: Gavin Glover
Artists involved in constructing: Gavin Glover, Liz Walker, Jim Bond, Ned Evans, Martin Smith
Animation and Video post production: Leah Morgan
Lighting Design, Technical Manager and Additional sound production: Mark Webber
Sound Technical Manager: Neil McGovern
Special thanks to: Dominic Gray, Simon Kerrigan, Huddersfield University, Anna Gregory, Chris Squire
Images by: FaultyOptic, Nicki Taylor and Dina Younis
Newspaper Reviews for Dead Wedding...
DeadWedding - FaultyOptic
Opera: Dead Wedding, Library Theatre, Manchester
By Lynne Walker
Published: 16 July 2007
Reinventing the Orpheus myth for the 400th anniversary of the first opera, Monteverdi's Orfeo, is all very well. But the creators of this Manchester Festival commission could have shed a little more light on exactly what was going on here, in the Underworld. Dead Wedding, by the puppet company Faulty Optic and Opera North, fleshes out the imaginary next chapter of Orpheus and Eurydice's story.
Mira Calix's score, a web of electronic noises – groans, grinding and whooping, wobbly vocalising – adds greatly to the weird visuals. The viola matches the macabre hues of the story; a cello complements Orpheus's musical activities; and ghostly clarinets squawk and croon, while Calix herself oversees the little band.
There's more to Faulty Optic than puppetry. Its dislocated Land of the Dead is brought to life with animated film and every type of non-verbal drama you can think of. A surreal landscape is dominated by skeletal puppets, eerily white under fluorescent lighting, seamlessly operated by shadowy figures. The set could have been created from a model kit with girders, wheels, axles and gears. It gives few clues as to time or place except for a gravestone and a sign saying "Hades – Danger of Death".
The narrative is constantly engaging. Stiffs in coffins pay Charon to allow them to cross the Styx in a whizzing lift. Orpheus appears to be dug up from his grave, possibly pulled to bits by the Bacchae, and finds himself minus his legs. A puppet on stilts staggers and sways to the door of the Underworld. There, Eurydice – a needle-nosed skull with beady eyes – is preparing herself for the Elysium fields, scrubbing away at her soul, a flimsy gauze outer skin.
There is an amusing re-marriage between Orpheus and Eurydice: puppets in tea-cosy masks, clutching outsized champagne glasses and practising flash photography is funnier than it sounds. But distant memories haunt the pair, and the lovers' hopes of bliss in Eternity are shattered. A pair of tiny figures atop a wedding cake are savaged by a vulture and an ogre-like monster, and even as the green light eventually signals "Go", it seems as though Elysium may not be the paradise once promised.
July 9, 2007
DeadWedding - FaultyOptic
Sam Marlowe at the Library Theatre, Manchester
This tantalising, maddening piece was commissioned by the Manchester International Festival and Opera North to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the beginning of opera. Presumably its creators, the multimedia puppeteers Faulty Optic, were thinking of Jacopo Peri’s Dafne, about Apollo’s passion for a nymph, and his later work Euridice, since Dead Wedding is similarly inspired by classical myth: Orpheus’s quest to rescue his wife Eurydice from Hades.
With snatches of text, music by the avant-garde composer Mira Calix and a riot of visuals, the company sends the story hurtling through time and space with an aesthetic that is part dreamscape and part brutal modernity.
A hulking, horned shadow surveys a kingdom in which two angular metal structures loom, like the skeletons of a pair of long-extinct quadrupeds. Revealed as a corpulent demon, the creature plays a tombstone-shaped fruit machine that spews pennies, harvested, perhaps, from the closed eyes of corpses. Eurydice, bald, ravaged, in a tattered white gown that suggests both a bride and a hospital patient, tries to scrub herself clean while a voice intones shards of what might be memories of a splendid wedding day: “Baskets of rose petals . . . mutton and vine leaves . . . a garland of lavender and sweet herbs.” Hollow-eyed Orpheus, who has lost the use of his legs, desperately tries to reach her by propelling himself along a railway track that ends in mid-air.
Such striking imagery abounds, rendered in puppetry and video animation. Eurydice and Orpheus appear as a helpless decorative couple atop a tiered wedding cake; a wire over the railway track becomes the string of a giant lyre; snarling Furies flap and flame. Calix’s music lilts, whines, rattles, grates and bangs.
DeadWedding – FaultyOptic
Lucie Davies - Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Perched atop a mountain, swathed in crimson light, a devilish-looking character with drooping man-boobs is feeding coins into a slot machine that is actually a gravestone.
It's funny in the blackest sense, and cult puppeteers Faulty Optic, with collaborating composer Mira Calix, create wonderfully dark comedy throughout their Manchester International Festival commission Dead Wedding.
Here small is not cute – it's macabre, menacing, and sometimes downright minging. Our hero is a lumpy, legless Orpheus, tottering about in Hades on a pair of wooden planks and lamenting the loss of his Eurydice.
Scrubbing away at some invisible stain, she seems none too pleased with his constant whining, rubbishing attempts to remind her of their life together on earth (two oven-glove masks with wobbly painted-on smiles: utterly hilarious), while he, undeterred, propels himself to and fro on a rusty cart track trying to catch a glimpse of his fianceé. Echoes from Opera North's L'Orfeo melt into gut-wrenching strings in tender moments, while white noise and drums beat forebodingly, occasionally reaching nightmarish crescendos or disjointed tension, to reflect Orpheus's dislocated mind.
Meanwhile, Optic newcomer Leah Morgan's Pythonesque animations lend depth and diversity in the background.
Calix and Faulty Optic formed a happy marriage on the whole – and one that feels distinctly alive
Manchester Evening News
MIF: Dead Wedding @ Library Theatre
A SIGN warning ‘Hades - Danger of Death’ is not the sort of thing you see every day, but Dead Wedding isn’t the sort of show you see every day.
Another brilliantly unique commission for the Manchester International Festival, in conjunction with Opera North, Dead Wedding finds the cult puppetry company Faulty Optic and composer Mira Calix using puppets, film, and live musicians to re-invent and re-mix the centuries-old myth of Orpheus and Eurydice for the 21st century whilst also marking the 400th anniversary of opera.
In the original Greek myth, Eurydice dies tragically on her wedding day. Orpheus, her fiancee, bargains with Pluto, the god of Hades, to bring her back from the land of the dead but he’s too anxious to look on her and breaks his deal with Pluto, thus losing her forever.
He is then ripped to shreds by the Bacchae - those Greeks certainly knew a thing or two about bad luck and trouble! In this imaginative next chapter, Orpheus has managed to put most of his body back together, with the exception of his legs, and he’s still obsessively searching for Eurydice.
She, though, has accepted her fate and is busy washing her soul. They’re both really most sincerely dead, of course, but can they ever be happy in the ever after?
With a wonderfully macabre sense of humour, this surreal show may not be mainstream family entertainment but it’s actually no less accessible than, say, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and is recommended to adventurous theatre and opera lovers alike.