‘Persephone’ at the Oxford Playhouse Review: ‘What is Power, Without the Power to Choose?’

Warning: this show contains references to sexual assault, mental health problems and miscarriage.

Last night, we were invited to virtually join the audience of the Oxford Playhouse and review the livestream of the Jazz Hands Productions’ ‘Persephone‘, a bold re-imagining of a classic Greek tale. This new musical, written and directed by Emma Hawkins with original music by Carrie Penn, offers a new perspective on love, loss and recovery.

Book, Plot, Synopsis and Characters

In the wake of the wildly successful, multi-award winning ‘Hadestown’, modern audiences are finding a new appreciation for Greek mythology, which writer Emma Hawkins tactfully taps into through a deep exploration of human nature; Hawkins intertwines the tragic Greek narrative with modern dialogue to create an engaging and wildly relatable show.

Teaser trailer for the 2021 Oxford Playhouse production of ‘Persephone’.

Coupled with Carrie Penn’s engaging, folk-inspired score – which seems to draw inspiration from its predecessors including ‘Blood Brothers’, ‘Hadestown’ and ‘Evita’ – the show is dark, twisted, poisonous and addictive. With hard-hitting and powerful lyrics, this is a show you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve left your seat. The ‘Little Old Town’ motif is particularly engaging.

The show synopsis, lovingly stolen from Jazz Hands Productions, is as follows:

When Persephone, the young goddess of spring, leaves behind her sheltered childhood for the love of a stranger, she discovers a world far removed from the one she knew. In a world where immortality is rife, power is corrupt, and nothing is a secret, there’s one thing everyone craves but no one can keep for long: youth. This thoughtful and fresh production asks the question – how do you hold onto your innocence when you live forever?

Jazz Hands Productions, 2021

And deliver on its promises, it does. While the first act feels familiar and relatable, the second act plummets the audience head-first into a wild journey, brimming with corruption, betrayal, love and loss, and exploring the question: ‘how does society steal not only innocence, but autonomy?’.

Cast, Crew and Creatives

Members of the Persephone cast, image courtesy of Jazz Hands Productions.

Persephone is performed by a cast comprised of members of the Oxford University student company Jazz Hands Productions, and includes Bethan Draycott, Peter Todd, Lorcan Cudlip-Cook, Maggie Moriarty, Maddie Hall, Abi Watkinson, Franco Lopez, Jak Spencer, Eleanor Dunlop, Emma Starbuck and Phoebe Tealby-Watson.

Persephone at the Oxford Playhouse is written and directed by Emma Hawkins, features original music by Carrie Penn, and is produced by Ana Pagu with choreography by Max Penrose, sound design by Nick Heymann, lighting design by Sam Morley and costume design by Gaia Clark Nevola. The show’s associate producer is Nathaniel Jones, with Beth Fitzpatrick as assistant musical director, Felix Westcott as associate director, Finley Bettsworth as production manager, and Jill Cushen and Charlotte Baxendale as marketing managers. 

Special Mention: The show’s set design was breathtaking, managing to be effective while remaining classy. You’ll especially enjot the aesthetics of the underworld.

Persephone’ is running from 11 – 13 November, and you can purchase tickets for upcoming productions, starting from £10, here!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was invited to attend ‘Persephone’ by Jazz Hands Productions in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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