Psyche! Open the Box! is a retelling of the 1st Century story by the Roman writer Apuleius. Psyche, the youngest and prettiest of the king's three daughters attracts the attention of the naughty god Cupid, and the raging jealousy of his mother Venus. Abandoned by her lover, alone and pregnant, Psyche must carry out three dangerous trials and go down to the Underworld to prove her love.
The story is as relevant today as it ever was, as its heroine, pregnant and abandoned by her lover, puts herself into the hands of her enemy and willingly undergoes the most terrible trials in order to regain her love. This she can only do with the aid of the natural world. She becomes part of the natural world, and is true to her own nature.
The ants, the daisies, and the eagle help her sort out the seeds, avoid the savage sheep, and outwit the serpents of the waterfall. The god Pan (god of nature / the wild) gives her good advice as does the goddess Ceres (goddess of the harvest), mother of Proserpina (goddess of spring), whose realm Psyche has to enter to find the box of beauty.
In the play, the goddess Venus is obsessed with appearances and being beautiful and represents the contemporary world with its compulsive consumerism and destructiveness.
Psyche's fateful Pandora-like curiosity nearly loses her everything in the end, but finally the lovers are reunited and the gods and goddesses forced to recognise her as their equal.
The first ending of the story in 1986 has Psyche opening the box of beauty, giving birth to a monster and nuclear winter ensuing, an ending influenced and rendered doubly poignant by the nuclear accident that week at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, warning us that our fateful curiosity and abuse of the natural world might lead to irreparable loss.
Psyche! open the Box! was originally performed outdoors as a play with puppets in a disused graveyard by Meg Amsden with Peter Allday and Gwen Ray in May 1986. Live music by Jane Wells was added for later performances. It was translated into Italian for Sorgente in Milano, 1989, with performers Mike Eldridge and Diana Grandi; and performed at Vision Mix, 1990 at Battersea Arts Centre, with performers Colin Spector and Ellie Rayner.
Nutmeg Puppet Company have made Psyche! Open the Box! into a 27-minute film, located in the Suffolk countryside, with filming and animation by Meg Amsden and Debra Hyatt and music by Jane Wells.