Styx 5* (Edinburgh Fringe Review)
Assembly George Square Gardens. 6.40 pm
With a fusion of music, science, storytelling, and Greek mythology, Styx is an example of gig theatre at its finest.
Writer and performer Max Barton uses this show to delve into the story of his grandparents, who both suffered from Alzheimer’s. The show even incorporates fascinating information about memory construction in an immersive musical experience.
"With a fusion of music, science, storytelling, and Greek Mythology, Styx is an example of gig theatre at its finest."
(Second Body, Styx)
The show alternates between music, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and snippets of interviews that Barton recorded with his grandmother, Flora. Her presence was presented as a lamp on the side of the stage with lightning and sound in sync. This was one of the many examples of ingenious lighting and sound design in this production and made us all feel the presence of a third member of the cast.
We piece together Flora’s life with the cast as they play thought-provoking music and mirror reality with myth. For those who don’t know, Orpheus was a musician and a prophet from Greek mythology who fell deeply in love with a nymph called Eurydice. On their wedding day, she was bitten by a venomous snake and died. Orpheus was devastated but would not give up hope of loving her again. He used his musical talent to strike a deal with Hades (the God of the underworld). He was allowed to go fetch Eurydice from the underworld but if he looked at her before they reached sunlight she would be lost forever. I’m sure you can guess what happened.
"We piece together Flora’s life with the cast as they play thought-provoking music and mirror reality with myth."
Styx is a devised production with many overlapping elements – the serene music, the myth, and the interview; each one hitting the audience with unique energy sourced from the intricate and wondrous lighting design: lightbulbs suspended above the two players like sublime stars hovering above the trials and tribulations of us mere mortals. The Greek mythology and Flora’s story were lost a little in the complexity of the musical elements of the show but the tunes were so overwhelmingly beautiful that this can hardly be a criticism.
When Styx was at the Fringe in 2019 it was accompanied by a six-piece band (who were unable to make it from Australia this year for obvious reasons). This ensemble would certainly have been epic but the intimacy that the two actors provided on their own altered the experience and perhaps made this personal show even more private.
This show focuses mainly on the pain of memory loss, of watching those you love slip away from you day by day, but the themes still run true after the traumatic events of the past months. Never before have our memories been so valuable when we have been deprived of human connection for so long. This is a thought-provoking, mystical production, you can just let it wash over you and remember the beauty of exploring the past. I can think of no greater reminder that we are all just the sum of our past and our ancestors tied together by our own imaginations.
"This is a thought-provoking, mystical production; you can just let it wash over you and remember the beauty of exploring the past."
Styx is a truly surreal experience exploring the idea of bringing people back to life through the power of music and memory. You will emerge from the Palais de Variété in a musical trance and completely in awe of what our own minds are capable of.