REVIEWS

30,000 NOTES

Josh Belperio

nth space – North Street, Adelaide  19 February to 16 March
Directed by Mathew Briggs
Lighting Mark Oakley
Sound Neville Clark

Reviewed by Emily Sutherland

NOTES FOR LIFE

Among the acrobats, comedians, drama, glitz and glitter, music, fun and mayhem, which bring the Adelaide Fringe to life there are gems that touch the soul. Josh Belperio, as an avowed athiest may not believe in a soul, but his beloved Nonna most certainly would have, and  his relationship with his grandmother is one of the themes that underpin this performance. 

First and foremost Josh is a composer. The notes in the title certainly pertain to the hundreds of written and typed notes, drawings, manuscript pages and jottings which are pinned to the walls of the nthspace. But the notes are musical notes as well. Not perhaps, 30,000, but lots of them. 

As Josh talks us through his journey as a composer; his discovery that certain combinations of notes can be beautiful and painful at the same time, and that this seeming contradiction has been his experience in life. His music highlights this insight and lifts this performance to a high level. 

Magna Gloria relates very directly to his grandmother, who had loved and supported him all his life, until she died of a particularly cruel disease. The sense of love and loss is repeated in A Thousand Winds  and Where Nonna and Nonno Are and culminate in i carry your heart with me, this last, in particular, being a composition any choir would be happy to perform.

The second strong theme is the  struggle to come to terms with his sexuality, having grown up in a culture where he internalised homophobia; his first loves and his present happy relationship.

Lighting is used to cleverly focus the notes on the wall, and these note also form a screen for films which Josh discovered his Nonna had taken over the years. It was very moving to see the love and joy that both his grandparents felt for their grandchildren as we listen to the music they, i part, inspired. The overall visual and aural effect, again, lifts this performance well beyond a ‘coming of age’ story to an artistic presentation of what may be considered those things in life that we can’t put into notes or music, but which we carry in our hearts and minds. 

 

KING ARTHUR
GABRIELI CONSORT & PLAYERS

ELDER HALL 18 and 19 February 2019
State Opera South Australia

Emily Sutherland

Welcome to the Court

The words that come to mind in reviewing this performance are ‘sublime’ and ‘peerless’.  Not accolades to be given lightly.
The audience in Elder Hall heard music performed by a group of musicians who have achieved a high level of excellence over the years since the Gabriele Consort was formed in 1982. Their group is to recreate the original performances of musical works as far as is possible.Hence the musicians use historical instruments and playing techniques. The result is a distinctive sound, less rounded than that of a modern ensemble, but which blends with and augments the singers in a subtle and satisfying way. Among a group of brilliant players the trumpeter Jean-Francois Madeuf and harpsichordist Jan Waterfield shone.
But what of the opera? This production is a concert performance of one of Purcells’ most popular works, edited to a version which offers a convincing musical experience but without the narrative that was part of the original. So, no King Arthur. Instead we had four acts of glorious music, each a discrete theme, beginning with the Saxon sacrifice scene and concluding with the triumph of Britannia. Each and every one of the singers was exemplary but perhaps special mention could be given to the bass-baritone Ashley Riches and the sopranos Anna Dennis and Mhairi Lawson. The duet,’Two Daughters of this Aged Stream’ sung by the two women was glorious, as was ‘You say t’is love’ sung by Anna Dennis and Ashley Riches. Mhairi Lawson was a playful  Cupid, warming all from the cold of winter, and two very English songs  ‘How Blest the Shepherds’, and the rollicking ‘For Folded Flocks’ (which earned spontaneous applause) gave added life to the performance.‘Fairest Isle’ sung by Anna Dennis was the icing on a very rich cake.
Although this was a concert performance there was no lack of movement and characterisation by the singers.
After long applause  and several call-backs, the singers and conductor left the stage and the orchestra, led by Catherine Martin played a short gentle piece which perfectly rounded off an evening of superb music.

Lennon: Through A looking Glass

John Waters & Stewart D’Arrietta

Fringe

Dom Polski Centre

17 February

****

John Lennon is, of course, an iconic figure and one of the most important popular songwriters of the latter part of the 20th century. There’s always a risk in celebrating his career  but the co-creators of the show, John Waters & Stewart D’Arrietta have struck just the right chord, making this show a must.

At times one can almost feel Lennon’s presence as the pair trawl through Lennon’s extensive catalogue of songs. The success of the show derives from the format: Waters as Lennon, complete with Liverpool accent giving voice to Lennon’s actual words on a topic and then marrying them to a Lennon song, with one obvious exception at the beginning and end. Simple but just right.

In the 90 minutes they manage to convey over 20 songs with basic but so effective accompaniment, D’Arrietta on piano and backing vocal and Waters on lead vocal and acoustic guitar. Wisely, no attempt to replicate the originals. Choice of songs is balanced between mainly latter Beatles and his solo material, closing, appropriately, with “Imagine”

They may have been performing this show for some time now and rather than looking jaded, these two seasoned performers put on a show not to be missed

 

Michael Prescott

HOLDEN STREET THEATRES

The Theatres that keep on Giving

Emily Sutherland

As in past years Holden Street Theatres, through their director Martha Lott, have brought some of the best of the Edinburgh Fringe plays to Adelaide. Among them, and in juxtaposition with fine Australian drama, are three plays which are outstanding as examples of both excellent acting and sharp, scintillating, insightful and totally satisfying writing. These plays, two one handers and the third with just two actors reach deeply into aspects of life, both up close and personal, and  through issues which have global ramifications. In each case the performances will challenge as well as entertain their audiences.

BUILD A ROCKET   Tuesday 12 February to Saturday 17 March
Playwright: Christopher York
Performer: Serena Manteghi
Build a Rocket is the winner of the Holden Street Theatres’ Edinburgh Award in 2018. It moves at a pace, tracing the experience of Yasmin who find herself pregnant at the age of sixteen. Without help from family or partner, she tells of her life with her son Jack, to the age where he is ready to move out of home. In the telling she dances and spins as a teenager, to become a desperate young mother, then to finding that she can take control her life.  Manteghi’s perfomance is strong and vivacious, the story told in writing which is unpretentiously poetic, with humour and pathos. Some people were crying at the end of the performance, so involved were they.

EXTINGUISHED THINGS  Tuesday 12 February to Sunday 3 March
Playwright and Performer: Molly Taylor

To see Molly Taylor perform is to feel that you have made a new friend. Those who saw her in Love Letters to the Public Transport System in 2018 will know exactly what I mean and will certainly not want to miss her new play, where she again draws the audience into her confidence, describing the vicissitudes of her life, and then finding, in the empty apartment of her neighbours, evidence, tokens and symbols of lives which may have seemed very ordinary until more closely examined. Molly Taylor has a deft touch with language, speaking to the audience as though she and they were people with whom anything could be shared.

GAMES
Playwright: Henry Naylor
Performers: Sophie Shad and Tessie-Orange-Turner

Henry Naylor has been bringing excellent drama to Holden Street Theatres for the last five years. In each play he has written of wars, terror, fighting for freedom, and in this last instance, fighting for the right to be considered as a person, not a race or a religion, or a minority of any description. It is based on true events during the time of the Berlin Olympic games, when Hitler determined that the world would see the superiority of the Aryan race, and two young Jewish women athletes attempted to show otherwise. Both women, Gretel Bergmann and Helen Mayer lived and were first class athletes. Henry Naylor has told their stories, in tandem, through the work of two young women who give totally convincing performances.

ADELAIDE FRENCH FESTIVAL
11-13 January
Adelaide Festival Centre 

Emily Sutherland

C’étais magnifique! The Adelaide French Festival had some very serious music, gourmet cheese, champagne, wine and food, art, dance and family events. If you noticed small girls walking around Adelaide with flowers in their hair you can be sure that they had been at the French Festival, being decorated by a very flamboyant hairdresser who said Viola! a lot. Or you may have seen very young children dressed in cardboard armour as though off to the Crusades, or was it to fight for Napoleon?

My particular focus  in the French Festival covered three events.

Piping Shrike Brass Band – Joie de Vivre
12 January  8.30am

Adam Page, he of the glorious beard and fantastic array of instruments, gathered to himself a group of very talented and joyful musicians. Hence the name of their show. The Space Theatre was set out like a New Orleans disco with very limited seating and lots of room for dancing. Nice idea, but I’d suggest more seating for those who find standing for 70 minutes too difficult, as long as there is still room for those who wish to dance, as many did.

For the record the musicians were:Adam Page -Tenor and Soprano Sax, Jason McMahon, who did wonders with an Irish whistler well as the Baritone Sax, Chris Weber -Trumpet, Josh Chenoweth -Trumpet, Aaron Deanshaw -Trombone, Annie Isakkson -Trombone, Kyrie Anderson- Snare Drum, Jarryd Payne- the big bass drum.

The joy from the stage was infectious and people were happy to sing along, dance discreetly and clap lots. Brass bands are heard to their best advantage in the open air, and one could really imagine this band in one of the many parks in Paris, or on the banks of the Seine, wowing the crowds on a Sunday afternoon as the musicians in the band played their own arrangements of popular French music, such as the Piaf, La Mer, Daft Punk and Camille. Street band met contemporary jazz in a joyous array of lively music. I trust we have not heard the last of the Piping Shrike Band. Look for them on a corner near you.

Lumieres!
Ellie James – Music and Vocals
Loig Nguyen – Sound Engineer
13 January 1.30pm

This program was a delightful presentation of four short films as Ellie James singing and playing on an assortment of instruments, looping to good effect, provided the sound track.
It was billed as a show for young children which would also delight adults, so while the big people sat on chairs the little ones sat in front of them on the floor. It says it all that the children sat mesmerised for the entire performance, with nary a restless wriggle. My grandson was totally enchanted with the films but particularly with Ellie James, whom he thought sang beautifully, was a marvellous musician and spoke with a charming French accent. Mind you, he is far too old to sit with the little ones.
The films were whimsical and imaginative. The whole performance throughly satisfying.

A Trip to the Moon
Nexus Arts, Lion Arts Centre
13 January 5.00pm

The films of George Méliès which were shown and the music that provided the live soundtrack were a fascinating contrast to Lumieres! The Trip to the Moon, The Illusionist, and The Mad Composer, were among the films that demonstrate the incredible achievements of Méliès. I was told on very good authority that the technique of making people seem to disappear was discovered by Méliès by chance, but it was a happy accident that developed to a high level of sophistication and provides the basis of some of the film work today. These films were made as early as 1900, and demonstrate what were revolutionary techniques and the beginnings of slapstick, so loved by the silent movie makers.
There were three segments, and three sets of musicians providing supporting music, whose output ranged from fully scored and composed to a semi-scored set to fully improvised music as the players watched the screen. The line-up of musicians was particularly impressive, including Julian Ferreretto, Hilary Klein, Sam Leske, Jarrad Payne, the Zeitgeist Orchestra, and Chris Martin. Interestingly the composed and scored segments did not differ markedly from  the improvised segment, and all versions added greatly to the entertainment.
This program was brought back from the previous year by popular request, and one could see the appeal.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Adelaide Festival Theatre  December 31 2018 9.30pm
Produced by Andrew Kay and Liza Mclean

Emily Sutherland

GLAMOUR AND SUSPENSE

In one way it is hard to judge a play that has set out to re-present the impact of that which is said to be Hitchcock’s greatest film. In another way it is better to see the play fresh, as it were, without any preconceived ideas. Any work of theatre should stand on its own merits even when it is adapted from a film or book. This one does.

The story is a classic cold war spy thriller involving mistaken identity, theft of State secrets, and a beautiful blonde. Roger Thornhill is abducted by thugs, who are convinced he is George Kaplan, and are not persuaded otherwise by his protestations that he is not George Kaplan, has no idea who George Kaplan is, and now, he would like to go home. Subsequent attempts to kill him do not succeed but do lead him along dangerous paths. His only ally is Eve Kendell, whom he meets on a train.

Being a thriller I do not intend to reveal more of the story. Those who have seen the film may question how a stage play could reproduce the pace and excitement of the chase, which involves trains, planes and  climbing  Mt Rushmore. The answer is by brilliant work from the creative team. Playwright Carolyn Burns has adapted the work of Ernest Lehman, the screen writer. Simon Phillips directed and while some of Bernard Hermmann’s score from the film is used most of the music is the work of composer Ian McDonald. The music matches the action and recreates the sense of a film score. Costumes designed by Esther Marie Hayes are authentic for the period. Think of the television series Madmen.

So, all is set in place for the actors. The three main characters played by Matt Day, Amber McMahon and Jonny Pasvolsky give flawless performances. Matt is the suave confident man who believes that he is master of his world, until he faces the fact that he’s not, a fact that daunts  him for a nanosecond as he seeks to rescue the lady. Amber McMahon is totally right as a woman who is both glamorous and intelligent. Jonny Pasvolsky plays a thug who wears a  thin veneer of  respectability. But this is a cast of thirteen. What of the other ten? These other actors cover a number of roles impeccably, which is not surprising when you read the list of their achievements. I particularly enjoyed Abigail McKern as Matt Day’s mother.

There is a sense of tongue-in cheek humour throughout the play and moments of specific humour. It’s fast moving, but well paced. The use of images, lighting and sound, and the box set, facilitate the dramatic scenes.  I’m not going to give away anything. Go and see for yourself and enjoy. As Director Simon Phillips wrote: ‘We just had fun – highly disciplined fun of course, and I think that communicates to the audience.’  It does!

FANFARE
Gala Concert Adelaide Youth Orchestra

Adelaide Town Hall  18 December

Emily Sutherland

Once again the Adelaide Youth Orchestra demonstrated what can be achieved when dedicated conductors and tutors unite with talented young musicians who are prepared to put in the necessary practice so that they can enjoy playing music which is both challenging and rewarding.

Hats off to the conductors in yesterday’s Gala Concert: Keith Crellin (Adelaide Youth Orchestra)  Al Kidney (Adelaide Youth Wind Orchestra) Minas Berberyan (Adelaide Youth Sinfonia) and Martin Butler Adelaide Youth Strings).

This has been a year to celebrate musicians who had once been AdYO member. Apart from performances during the year four alumni were commissioned to compose a fanfare for this concert. 

David John Lang composed Fanfare for a Warrior, played by the Adelaide Youth Wind Orchestra. This fanfare is described as ‘a battle cry’ and the players took to the battle with aplomb and vigour. Lux Aurumque,  by Eric Whitacre, allowed them show a gentler side.

The Adelaide Youth Sinfonia, with some very young musicians, played Prologue for Orchestra, composed by Sebastian Phlox. This piece allowed for all parts of the orchestra to take the listener ‘on a short, self-contained journey through different orchestral landscapes’. Their bracket ended with a vigorous Hungarian March by Berlioz.

Emily Tulloch drew on her time in Mexico where she had made a study of the music and culture of the Yucatan Peninsula. The work certainly brought to mind the sunny, energetic and rhythmic music of that region, and the String Orchestra seemed to revel in it. Palladio by Karl Jenkins showed a contras in style and approach.

Finally the Adelaide Youth Orchestra played Verso la Fanfara, composed by Jakub Jankowski. He described it as ‘not just a fanfare but a journey towards a fanfare’,  a journey which the musicians completed with confidence. Their final piece was the William Tell Overture, which begins serenely but finishes in a gallop. This was a magnificent finale to a fantastic concert. Special mention must be made of the cellist, Jack Overall, whose tone was glorious, and the flautist Madeleine Stewart, whose playing shone, as always.

Looking through the lists players in the four groups there is very little repetition. This means that there are a large number of young musicians who are being given the opportunity to develop and  share in the joy of music making with others. Keith Crellin is their guiding light, but he is helped by a number of others who give up their time to work with AdYO in many ways. They deserve whatever support we can give to them.

THE FLINT STREET NATIVITY 

Written by Tim Firth  Directed by Michael Eustice
Red Phoenix Theatre
Holden Street Theatres 8-17 November

JOSEPH WAS A CAR PAINTER

This is an intensely funny play. The children, played convincingly by adult actors, reveal their own characters within the roles of Mary, Joseph, Inn keeper Shepherd, Herod, Wise Men, Angel Gabriel, Angel, Star and Narrator. The full cast is there in a glorious confabulation of misunderstandings and malapropisms. The humour abounds, and tempting as it is to quote some of the funnier bits, this would spoil it for those who go to see the play after reading this review. And I would urge you to do so.

Nor do I wish to single out any member of the cast, as in true ensemble mode, they are uniformly terrific. There is not a moment where the action lags or the dialogue fails.

Credit should be given to the playwright, Tim Firth. This is a project which is seemingly straightforward and simple, but which holds many a trap. Credit also to Michael Eustice, who has directed this play so effectively.

The singing is awful, but authentic. The words of the carols bear very little resemblance to the words we know, but reflect the concerns and lives of the children singing them. The parents transformed from the children, in the final scene of the play, display the same insecurities and dysfunction as their off spring, but with a veneer of civilised socialising.  

But when all is said and done the play is a laugh from start to finish – a really entertaining evening. It’s a perfect end to this year’s season of plays by Red Phoenix Theatre.

Emily Sutherland

Patina

OzAsia Festival

Space

November 6

***

Fusing several art forms into one cohesive performance is difficult to achieve successfully. Here Adelaide based David Kotlowy has attempted to do just that with music, dance, calligraphy, electronica across a very wide stage.

To say the least, this is a uniformly slow and thus very calming, performance. The show opens with Kotlowy on the wonderful Japanese wooden flute, shakuhachi, walking across the stage and then treating the pure sound to various electronic effects, yielding to Gamelan In Situ and music composed specially for this work, then to calligrapher Juno Oka and finally dancers Ade Sukarto and Shin Sakuma.

Oka’s role is vital in adding depth, he used four large boxes which he manoeuvred around the stage to various permutations to create fresh canvases upon which he add his wonderful art. But the central focus is really on the music of the Gamelan and the shakuhachi, the rhythmic beat of the gamelan contrasting with the solo beauty of the flute. To this reviewer, the dance, although very beautiful, is a little too slow to achieve the focus that the performance needed.

Kotlowy succeeded in managing to meld the various art forms into one cohesive piece and that is no mean feat, but the performance suffered from a lack of variation in pace and continuity.

Michael Prescott

 

Sutra

OzAsia Festival

Dunstan Playhouse

3 November

*****

It is no wonder that this is an acclaimed production, it is visually stunning.

Directed, choreographed and featuring Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and monks from the Shaolin Temple, not to mention an equal number of coffin sized boxes, the performance is fast paced, aerobatic, intensely physical but beautiful and wholly enthralling at the same time.

One cannot see this without focusing on the boxes and the myriad of ways that the performers are able to bring what appear to be ordinary and static things to life and the ease that they were able to move these cumbersome items all over the stage. Without being at all comprehensive, they were boats, a moving spiral, a wall, dominoes (see above) an opening flower, a maze and many other wonderful and imaginative uses.

Aside from focusing on Cherkaoui himself, one is drawn to the youngest monk, a mere boy, whose dancing skills were quite outstanding, especially for such a physical show. Further, he is active for virtually the complete performance. The physicality demonstrated by the monks was powerful, with kung fu, religious influences and dance all to the fore, whilst at the same time constantly maneuvering the boxes all over the stage into a seemingly never ending range of uses.

Completely enthralling.

Michael Prescott

 

GURU OF CHAI

Indian Ink Theatre Company
Space Theatre- OzAsia Festival  25-27 October

Emily Sutherland

In this age of sophisticated media it is easy to forget the sheer joy a being told a story, especially in the hands of such an artist as Jacob Rajan. Taking on the character of a seller of chai in a railway station in Bangalore, he takes us on a journey of unrequited love, intrigue, greed, violence, and romance. In the telling he assumes the identity of a number of characters, seventeen in all, and such is his skill that there is no confusion.
Before embarking on his story the Guru engages the audience in true guru speak, promising that all tensions, worries and problems will be solved. At the end he admits that truthfully this was a lie, but in the meantime we have followed the fortunes of a homeless girl with a beautiful singing voice, a lovelorn policeman, a poet, the six sisters of the homeless girl, and the chai-wallah himself. For an hour and twenty minutes he scampers about the stage, involves the audience, sings, and creates all the characters. He is ably assisted by Adam Ogle, the musician, and clever lighting designed by Cathy Knowsley.
Guru of Chai is refreshingly different, thoroughly enjoyable, and a virtuoso performance by an actor who has won numerous awards. Apart from the joy of hearing a story so brilliantly unfolded, there is a serious undercurrent, a glimpse into the life of people in India, with its mixture of modernity and ancient gods, its poverty and culture. Paradoxically the Indian Ink Theatre is based in New Zealand, rather than India, and their work has been performed in Australia, UK, USA and Europe. The script is co-written by Jacob Rajan and the Director Justin Lewis. Music is composed by David Ward.

VOCALI Chamber Chorale           

Tynte St Baptist  Church, North Adelaide
Sunday 21 October 2.30 pm

Emily Sutherland

There’s a New Kid on the Block

Seventeen singers, together with Musical Director, Alex Roose, presented their premiere performance in the warm atmosphere of the Tynte Street Baptist Church, which has the added advantage of raked pews, so that the audience receives both sound and sight of the choir.
Vocali Chamber Chorale was formed in February by  singers wishing to explore the vast and challenging a cappella repertoire. Alex Roose, returning to Adelaide from London, where he had a successful musical career, became their foundational music director in June.
Today’s program was based on Marian Music across a wide range of composers and musical periods. The tone was set as the choir processed into the church, singing Salve Regina, as monks and nuns had done for hundreds of years. The music that followed included works by Poulenc, Goreczycki, Geilo, Josquin des Prez and Rachmaninov, to name but a few. Vocali demonstrated versatility, a balanced, resonant and harmonious sound, and the ability to sing in any number of languages. I particularly enjoyed Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin and Bogoroditse Devo by Rachmaninov, the latter evoking the sound of a Russian choir, especially in the bass line. Interesting to hear different treatments of music that we know and love, such as Ola Gjeilo’s Ave Generosa, although I must admit to preferring Hildegard of Bingen’s original.
Alex Roose, along with the singers, is to be congratulated on an excellent premiere performance.  Adelaide does already have a number of fine choirs but this new group can take its place proudly alongside them.
Another concert is scheduled in autumn, next year, with the date to be announced, and to feature secular music. I would suggest you keep your eye out, and your ear tuned for the date, and then book your ticket.