'Hadestown' stars Grace Hodgett Young and Dónal Finn on the show's return to London

Dónal Finn and Grace Hodgett Young play the lovers Orpheus and Eurydice in this Greek myth-inspired musical, which is also currently running on Broadway.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

London audiences last saw Anaïs Mitchell’s Greek myth-inspired musical Hadestown in 2018 when the show played at the National Theatre, just ahead of its multi-Tony Award-winning run on Broadway, where it is still playing.

Now, Hadestown is returning to London in a new production with a new company. Dónal Finn and Grace Hodgett Young, who play lovers Orpheus and Eurydice, say that the cast has been encouraged to put their own stamp on the musical.

“I love listening to Grace singing in her Midlands accent!” Finn says. “Having a cast where Orpheus is a young Irish person and Eurydice is from the Midlands, and our Hades is American – it builds a new narrative, rather than everyone being from the same place. It also feels representative of the London we live in.”

Hodgett Young comes to Hadestown directly from playing Betty Schaefer in Jamie Lloyd’s electrifying revamp of Sunset Boulevard, while Finn’s work ranges from Albion at the Almeida Theatre to TV series Wheel of Time and movies like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Finn and Hodgett Young spoke with London Theatre Magazine about their take on the show.

What should we know about your characters in Hadestown?

Grace Hodgett Young: Eurydice is a hungry young girl. She’s homeless. She’s been on the streets, and she’s used to being alone. Then she meets Orpheus, and for the first time, she lets that wall down and allows herself to be loved and to love someone.

Dónal Finn: Orpheus is a songwriter with this great social ambition: to create a piece of music that brings harmony back to Earth. The world is out of sync because the seasons are non- present: we have blistering summer or freezing winter, and no capacity for nature to flourish. Then, during his quest, he meets Eurydice and falls in love with her, but he doesn’t always prioritise her.

Hodgett Young: Meanwhile Eurydice meets Hades, and she gets offered everything she’s ever wanted – but only if she sacrifices Orpheus.

Finn: It looks at love in a mature way. It’s not a musical where we see love with no struggle. It’s like that Alain de Botton quote: “Immature love accepts no compromise.” We see two young people gradually learning that compromise has to be part of making love a success.

How would you describe the Hadestown score?

Finn: It’s hard to characterise it in one genre. So much of it is folk, but there’s elements of jazz and ragtime. Hodgett Young: And it’s very soulful. It’s also dependent on the artist singing it – so our version sounds completely different to the Broadway soundtrack. It’s amazing having music that’s so open to interpretation. I’ve never felt that I have to fit into someone else’s shoes.

Finn: I love that Orpheus is a singer-songwriter, because it means I can take ownership of the music and make it feel like it’s being made in the moment. Bringing as much of yourself to it as you can is the greatest way to serve this score.

What’s your favourite song?

Hodgett Young: I love all of Orpheus’s epic chants. [Hades’s lover] Persephone has some proper bops. My favourite is “Promises”: it’s got lovely harmonies, plus Orpheus and Eurydice have grown up by then, and they have a more adult relationship.

Finn: I feel very lucky to be on stage when Grace is singing “Flowers”. I really enjoy the Fates’s music – it has such clever wordplay. I love “All I’ve Ever Known” too. It’s very hopeful and it’s an exciting part of the story.

Are you enjoying getting to use your natural accents?

Hodgett Young: Definitely. It gives you more ownership over it, and it’s helpful from a narrative point of view. But technically it’s harder with my Northern vowels…

Finn: We met Anaïs during the press launch, and she was very inspired by Ireland and had a great fondness for the place. Listening to her albums, you can hear that tradition of storytelling through song, which is present in Irish folk music too. So you get that connection.

How do you think the show comments on modern issues?

Finn: The imagery is timeless but very poignant and powerful – like the idea of the man who’s lost all sense of what his work is for and he’s building a wall that never ends. The climate element also has a meaning now beyond its original intention.

Hodgett Young: The show is definitely political. As a young woman, I can relate to Eurydice thinking about what she needs to survive – but then how much does that mean if you don’t have anyone there for you?

How does it feel to be part of this first Hadestown West End cast?

Hodgett Young: So exciting! At first, I felt a lot of pressure, because it did so well in America. But because this version is so different, it really feels like our show.

Finn: It’s a story with real intention to do good in the world. The song that Orpheus is working on is a metaphor for the show: making something that serves the Earth in a positive way, and gets people to believe in positive change. I feel really proud to be part of a show that has that kind of heart, and to be in this amazing company.

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This article first appeared in the February issue of London Theatre Magazine.

Photo credit: Grace Hodgett Young and Dónal Finn. (Photo courtesy of production)

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