Down in Hadestown, Anais Mitchell’s take on two Greek myths is something you won’t want to miss.

For many, the Greek myths are synonymous with Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion skeletons and nightmarish bronze giants, or a contemplative Sir Laurence Olivier in a toga. Whilst the remainder of us cannot separate Brad Pitt’s lustrous, golden locks and Gerard Butler’s “This is Sparta!” from the heroic, marble-cut warriors of legend. So, to attempt yet another retelling of stories thoroughly engrained in the public consciousness is, as you would expect, quite a steep hill (or Mount Olympus, if you will) to climb.

Imagine my relief, arriving at the West End premiere of Hadestown, to find a speakeasy jazz club in place of an amphitheatre.

Melanie La Barrie and the company in Hadestown

Source: Marc Brenner

Melanie La Barrie takes on the role of Hermes.

Anais Mitchell’s antiquity is quite an unfamiliar world indeed; though, chillingly, its climate, which is plagued by natural disaster and famine, is what gives her rendition its resonance and contemporaneity. This weather-beaten earth hosts a society where the state of play is dictated by the very human passions of the gods, a concept which may have been considered “too unbelievable” (even for theatre) only a few years ago, but strangely feels like a very logical premise in the post-Covid, climate-apocalyptic present.

The narrative itself is a beautiful marriage of two of the most beloved myths, the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice and the tale of Hades and Persephone. A budding but doomed relationship between the hopeless romantic Orpheus (Donal Finn) and the perceptive realist Eurydice (Grace Hodgett) is the perfect foil for the bitter marriage troubles driving the gods of the underworld to ruin. Its real brilliance is in how the latter storyline provides a strong motive for Hades’ greed that hurtles the former towards its final, inevitable conclusion.

The company in Hadestown

Source: Marc Brenner

The show blends modern American folk music with New Orleans-inspired jazz.

As in the oral tradition, the stories are sung - but instead of a lyre, songbird Orpheus strums a blues guitar. Donal Finn’s raw, lilting vocals are what carries the premise of a man with the power to remind the gods of what love is; and his moments under the dim, low spotlight have all the attributes of intimate gig at an indie club. These are cosy, nostalgic moments that take the edge off the harsh fate that our heroes face.

“This is a tragedy,” messenger and part-time narrator Hermes (played confidently by Melanie La Barrie) repeatedly stresses, so audiences you have been warned.

Grace Hodgett-Young and Zachary James in Hadestown

Source: Marc Brenner

Grace Hodgett-Young and Zachary James play Eurydice and Hades.

Whilst you shouldn’t expect anything other than what has been told for the last 2,000 years, prepare for something new. Hadestown takes us down into the diesel-fuelled furnace of Hell, and in the process excavates what these stories continue to teach us about love, relationships and the human complexities that undermine both. In short, “it’s an old tale from way back when / and we’re gonna sing it again and again.”

We saw Hadestown at the Lyric Theatre on Wednesday 21st February. The show is running until 22nd December 2024, with tickets and more information available at