Time to have some fun at Clive’s expense!
It’s a morning interview with Leigh Sales and of course Clive needs breakfast at the same time as well as sorting out deals with the assistance of his nephew, also Clive. There can only be one outcome from this scenario, complete chaos. And so it is!
Clive is going to leave Australia and settle in New Zealand, via his Titanic II with anyone who wants to pay to join him. All the while, Sales is trying to carry on an interview. The plot takes a rather clever turn when Clive chokes on a sausage and dreams that he, in fact, won the election. In his stupor Clive comes up with all sorts of madness as to what he will do as PM, bring back dinosaurs and so on. There’s a twist when the Electoral Commission ask Jackie Lambie to satisfy herself that he is fact the real Clive Palmer.
Nick Conway is convincing as a mad and narcissistic Clive Palmer in this fast paced comedy, whislt Pud Hamilton is excellent as the nephew and Lisa Harper Campbell copes very well with three very different roles. There’s no attempt be accurate or politically correct (how could you with Clive Palmer as the subject) and perhaps the script could have been edited to slow it down a little. However, as with the trio’s George Glass shows (“Abbott! The Musical” and “Scientology The Musical”) the shambles is punctuated with several well crafted and witty original songs.
BREAKING THE WAVES – Scottish Opera 13 and 15 March Festival Theatre
Music: Missy Mazzoli
Libretto: Royce Vavrek
Director: Tom Morris
Conductor: Stuart Stratford
Lars von Trier’s film, Breaking the Waves created an impact which has endured, and this impact is no less strong in the performance at Festival Theatre last night. Contemporary opera has broken free from the Greek legends, the dramas in the households of minor dukes, deaths of kings and queens or political upheaval. While the narrative in Breaking the Waves is contemporary, it reaches back to the themes of love, sacrifice, condemnation, forgiveness and redemption – the foundation of so many great operas. In this work the stern Calvanist community and the bleak environment cast a shadow through which the sensuality, love, lust and longing break through, brought forth into the light by the music, libretto, stage and light design and performances of the singers, as directed by Tom Morris.
Bess McNeil, a young religious woman on a small Scottish land undertakes a series of sexual encounters with strangers in the belief that this will bring about her husband’s recovery from a near-fatal industrial accident, which leaves him paralysed and close to death. In doing this she is obeying his request, while inviting the condemnation of her mother and the closely knit community. The action moves seamlessly from church to oil rig, hospital and outside environment. In the same way the male chorus becomes church elders, oil rig workers or a mob of predators hunting Bess, lusting and jeering. In the final act the doctor states that Bess should be diagnosed, not as neurotic or psychotic, but good. She could be likened to the Fool in medieval stories who is derided by everyone yet proves to be the wisest of all. The sight of Bess in death, held by her close friend Dodo in an image of the Pieta’, augments this mystical quality.
The stage set, using thirteen graduate monoliths placed on a revolve, plus effective video projection and inspired lighting allows the action to move smoothly. They are in turn Church, oil rig and bridge. Mazzoli has scored for a small orchestra, augmented by piano/synthesizer and electric guitar. Under the conductor, Stuart Stratford, the music creates and emphasises the moods and emotional tensions. At times it is reminiscent of Britten’s operas, which is not so surprising considering the setting of bleak Scottish island, but it is always individualistic and effective. The libretto ranges from the naturalistic to evocative and poetic. It works well.
Of the singers, unstinting praise must go to Sydney Mancasola who sang and acted the demanding role of Bess. From the prologue, where she revealed her awakening to love in a series of vocal leaps and trembling anticipation to the final act where she showed steely resolve to follow a course of action repugnant to her; in her belief that God was guiding and, in fact, speaking to her through the percussive speech rhythms backed by a male chorus, she never wavered from vocal excellence. Support was given by a fine cast, with Duncan Rock as her husband Jan, convincing in both looks and voice, Wallis Giunta, who as the close friend and sister-in-law Dodo, was a strong vocal presence, as was Elgan Llyr Thomas, the Doctor and Oria Boylan who sang the less sympathetic role of Bess’s mother, obviously conflicted between her love for her daughter and her religious beliefs.
Breaking the Waves has been described by some as harrowing, prurient and distasteful. By others it is hailed as a significant new opera that portrays brutality and compassion, sacrifice and redemption. As the director Tom Morris has written: Even after the opera’s tragic denouement, the compassion of Mazzoli’s Bess remains alive in the music until the last note sounds. May that last note continue to resonate.
THE SOUND OF HISTORY
Adelaide Town Hall 7 March
Richard Mills: Conductor
Christopher Clark: Presenter
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
BEETHOVEN, NAPOLEON AND REVOLUTION
A Festival provides an opportunity to present programs which deviate from the accepted pattern, allowing new insights in to the work of composers or dramatists. Last night in the Adelaide Town Hall the historian and academic Christopher Clark (Cambridge University) provided a commentary on the text of the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter written by Beethoven (when he was comparatively young) as his last will and testament at the time when he realised that his hearing ailment was irreversible. Clark also touched on political events in Europe, in which Beethoven was clearly interested, relating this material to Beethoven’s Symphony No 3 in E-flat major Op.55 ‘Eroica’.
There were moving images of the orchestra in collage, cast on to a screen behind the players, during their performance. This may have enhanced the experience for some, but at times it created a distraction, particularly during the Brett Dean piece, this being not as well known as the Beethoven, and therefore requiring careful listening.
The scheduled conductor Brett Dean being ill, his place on the podium was taken by Richard Mills. He deserves both thanks and praise for doing it so competently. The first early Beethoven work was the third movement of the Septet in E-flat major Op.20, a delightful and playful piece performed by seven members of the orchestra. Then the introduction to the Piano Concerto No 1 in C major and parts of the Symphony No 1 and 2 were played, illustrating both Beethoven’s development as a composer, and the effect his condition may have had on his music.
This was followed by a work by Brett Dean. In composing Testament: Music for Orchestra Dean was inspired by the Heiligenstadt Testament. His music was in stark contrast to what had gone before. Initially the strings were played with rosiness bows, creating an eerie almost indeterminate sound, reflecting how music would have sounded to a deaf person. The scherzo like character of these scribblings eventually gave way to slower music, led by a high floating cantilena in the first viola. Even after the players resumed their rosined bows there was a sense of loss, disquiet and something unresolved. In this work, expressed in the language that Beethoven loved most, the struggles and frustration he suffered in his later years were highlighted.
The Symphony No 3 in E-flat major, made up the final half of the program. Christopher Clark spoke of the dedication of this work to Napoleon, and then erased by Beethoven, when Napoleon betrayed the Revolution, and the various interpretations that scholars and critics have given to this monumental work. But the music speaks for itself, and conjecture, idle or otherwise, does not add or subtract from the work of a great composer.
150 Psalms – Celebration of Life
Adelaide Town Hall
This would have been a five star performance, and for the music alone, it certainly was, but why we had a 15 minute introduction by Kerry O’Brien is difficult to fathom. Enough said.
What a way to finish off this great series of shows, 15 psalms and one motet, Thomas Tallis’s masterpiece, “Spem In Alium”.
There was, of course, a clever mixture of composers and eras, from the 16th century to the 21st. Despite this diversity there was an overall cohesion in the works that made this a fitting conclusion. Special mention to Vic Ness’s Psalm 57 with several parts and a powerful middle section and a possible hint of dissonance. Contrast this to 16 century composer Constantini’s Psalm 101, female singers only, with it’s beautiful unison. Glorious.
The performance concluded with the aforementioned masterpiece Tallis “Spem In Alium” which brought together 40 singers in four sections across the stage. What a finale! This great work was brought to life by conductor Peter Dijkstra and brought the performance and this series to a fitting conclusion.
Its unique events like this that make the Adelaide Festival so essential.
Adelaide Town Hall
In this wonderful performance Garrick Ohlsson provided ample evidence as to why he is considered to be one of the world’s best pianists. His touch and ability to wring out every last drop from the music is second to none.
The programme commenced brilliantly with a delightful reading of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No 11. This was followed by what was to this reviewer the highlight of the night, Prokofiev’s powerful Piano Sonata No 6, with its dramatic first and fourth movements and slower middle movements. Ohlsson played with real passion making this a compelling work.
The second half of the night belonged to Chopin, of whom Ohlsson is rightly regarded as a master. His mastery was clearly evident with the beautiful Impromptu No 2 followed by six of Chopin’s Etudes numbered five to ten, all played just about perfectly and covering a wide range of forms. The evening was completed with Berceuse and Scherzo in C sharp minor, sublime.
A major event that lived up to expectations and so much more.
GONE GIRLS The Studio – Holden Street Theatres 4-15 March
Julia Gillard and Julie Bishop greet members of the audience as they enter; a handshake, a murmured introduction, a welcoming smile. This camaraderie is soon dispelled as they spar and parry, through question time in Parliament, and ‘chance’ encounters in the ladies washroom. The two see-saw from opposition to government as their political fortunes wax and wane. All this with clever use of visuals and sound effects, a clever script and impeccable accents. There are guest appearances by Kevin Rudd and Reuben, the dog, as they move from the Lodge to Parliament House, bypassing Kirrabilli.
But these two women of politics, who have tasted the heady heights of power, are not to be sidelined, and those who helped bring them down are not to be allowed to triumph. The former adversaries become firm allies in seeking revenge. Patrick Livesey (Julia Gillard) and Annabel Larcombe (Julie Bishop), take us to the inevitable conclusion in a show that is hilarious, irreverent, sharp and disturbing, if you can stop laughing long enough to really consider the implications that power in politics has nothing to do with governing the country. Highly recommended.
Odeon Theatre, Norwood
High above the stage an apparently suspended in mid-air, opening as the audience enter the theatre and assume their seats, Mirelle Martins rocks from side to side as if cradling a baby. It is a captivating beginning to an extraordinary dance from Martins and her dance partner and choreographer Shamel Pitts.
It transpires that she is in fact on top of a ladder, covered in a cloak, the only props that are utilised in this performance, aside from some austere lighting. It is thus up to the two dancers and their great skills to reel the audience in. This they managed with ease.
Whilst there did not appear to be a theme, signposts in the dance pointed to serious issues. The imposing figure Pitts appears to break down, only to receive great comfort from Martins is one example.
Pitts choreography deserves praise, it is arresting and fascinating, with changes in pace adding to the interest in the show and the interaction between the two dancers is extraordinary. The music is, to say the least, abstract and often bleak, but complimented the dark stage setting and the dance itself.
Dance like this is not often seen. It should be.
THE DOCTOR by Robert Icke
Dunstan Playhouse 27 February- 8 March
This is a play which promises more than it delivers. The initial dilemma faced by a group of doctors is whether their Director, Ruth Wolff (Juliet Stevenson) is justified in refusing a priest to the bedside of a patient. The patient is a fourteen year old Catholic girl, dying because of a botched abortion. The girl’s parents, but not the girl herself, have asked that she be given the Last Rites, and the opportunity to make her confession and receive absolution, which, in the parents’ minds means that she will be spared eternal damnation. Ruth Wolff feels that as her patient has not asked for a priest and will possibly be distressed by his presence, she should be allowed to have a peaceful death. Interestingly no one points out that as the patient is a child, her parents consent and wishes should have been respected.
This situation does raise interesting ethical questions, which could have been explored in a number of ways, but the makeup of the doctors: Jewish, Catholic, atheist, white or coloured, male or female, gay or heterosexual, leads the initial problem quickly on to racial and gender issues and power politics. Ruth Wolff, the Director of the Institute is acknowledged by them all as a brilliant doctor and researcher, but because of the public furore following her refusal to apologise for her decision, she is also seen as a liability. After an acrimonious final meeting of the doctors on the executive Board, Ruth is ousted.
The dialogue carries the play, but with many contrasting and confusing elements threaded through the conflicts and accusations it is not easy to find a focal point, except that ambition and tactics can prevail when a leader, obviously brilliant at her job, fails as a communicator. There is a large cast, with one two having very small scenes. The actors carry their roles, although one could ask for more clarity at times. The set is very basic, stripped bare to a few tables and chairs representing a staff meeting room. Incessantly through the play a drum beat sounds, adding to the tension, but at times it was intrusive.
However there is much to commend in this play, particularly the performance by Juliet Stevenson, who is seldom off stage. As well as the initial ethical problem the play does highlight the intricacies and inherent flaws in any institution where egos and beliefs are stronger than the desire for excellent practice.
REQUIEM Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Festival Theatre 28 February-4 March
Co-production: Festival Aix-en- Provence and Adelaide Festival
Mozart’s Requiem, so full of vitality and vigour, celebrates rather than mourns. It is as though Mozart looked at death and asked ‘where is thy sting?’ Considering this, it is a tragic irony that he died before being able to complete his great work.
In this representation of the Requiem as a staged performance it is not adding the superfluous to the sublime. Rather it is drawing from the profundity and scope of Mozart’s music to consider not just our mortality but the mortality of our world. Great civilisations have flourished and failed. The environment can be destroyed, but hopefully regenerated. In choosing to begin the Requiem with a death bed scene and concluding with a baby sitting alone on the stage, happily playing with toys, we are left with a sense of hope rather than despair.
The very first sounds are not music but the arguing of politicians in Question Time. That is the banality that contrasts with the complex themes portrayed through movement and symbolism on stage, reminding us in the words of Shelley that we are: A traveller from cradle to grave/ through the dim night of this eternal day.
But what of the music? Had you sat there with eyes closed you would still have come away satisfied. Other music has been added to Mozart’s Requiem -plainchant and arrangements of compositions by Mozart. These additions complement both his opus and the action on stage.From the clear voices of the sopranos chanting Christus factus est to the opening chords from the horns, to the magnificent oboe Adagio and the final plainchant In Paradisum the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the choir, consisting of members of Adelaide Chamber Singers and State Opera Chorus were as near to perfect as one could hope. The four soloists, Siohban Stagg, Sara Minguardo, Martin Mitterrutzner and David Greco were all excellent, while the treble Luca Shin stood boldly and alone, centre stage and sang with great composure. (As a digression, I could imagine a row of proud parents, grandparents, second cousins and the next door neighbour in the audience).
Over the last three years we have had a spectacular opera or staged oratorio to open the Adelaide Festival of Arts. Requiem, as devised by director Romeo Castellucci, does not disappoint.
Ashley Hribar plays Dr Caligari
Mercury Cinema 26,27,28 February 8.00pm
New music brings old classic to new life.
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is a very early Impressionist German silent film, which had a strong influence on film production for years to follow. Produced in 1920 by Robert Weine, it featured set designs with wildly unrealistic angles, and designs painted on walls while the actors used their expressions, at times distorted, to show inner emotional reality. It would seem that these elements contributed to the music which Ashleigh Hribar composed, played on an amplified piano, plus electronics, and sound effects including bells.
To set the macabre, he emerged from a coffin at the side of the stage, white faced and awkward in movement, mirroring the sonambulist who plays such an important part in the six act film. Ashleigh, as both composer and pianist, is a versatile musician. His works have been described as ‘polystylistic collages using extended performance technique’. There was no doubt at last night’s performance that he is a terrific pianist, playing music that fitted the genre of the silent movie, matching the moods and movements on the screen, and which may have appeared far simpler than it actually is. Added to the music there were the very clever electronic contributions, mirroring the sounds of stepping feet, crowd scenes, beating hearts and even a handbell. In the Mercury Cinema we were surrounded by sound while absorbed in a story of mystery and murder.
The film, restored by modern techniques and painstaking research, is a wonder itself. The music composed and played by Ashleigh Hribar adds immeasurably to the experience of viewing it. It is a tour de force.
Last year the Necks performed at the cavernous Palais as part of the Festival, this year the Fringe at the RCC in rather smaller environment. Somewhere in between would be ideal.
Nonetheless, the Necks weaved their magic with two pieces, each about 45 minutes long. It’s been said many times before, but with the Necks it bears repeating, they are one of the most unique bands on the planet with the group improvisation going places no one has before.
On this night the two pieces appeared to be extended versions of two tracks from their great new CD, “Three”, but I may be wrong! On disc the songs are about half the length of tonight’s show, so this enabled the band to stretch out with quiet and slow openings, building to a more energetic conclusion. The repetition, for which the band is famous, was present with the music continually changing, almost imperceptibly. No this, in the case of the Necks, is not a contradiction.
Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums and percussion) and Lloyd Swanton (bass) displayed a rapport that borders on telepathic and this is what makes them so special.
THE NIGHTS by HENRY NAYLOR
Holden Street Theatre 11-Feb-15 March
Directed by Louise Skanning
***** HENRY NAILS IT AGAIN
The Nights continues the themes explored in Naylor’s Arabian Nightmares. This latest play highlights the longstanding conflict between the West and the Middle East. Underlying the story is proposition that those countries that lay claim to Justice, Democracy and the Rule of Law should not fight against an enemy which is seen as having no respect for these ideals, if the side of ‘right’ deploys the same tactics as those who we judge as ‘evil’.
The Nights was inspired by the Jihadi bride, fifteen year old Shamima Begul, who was refused entry back into Britain, and had her citizenship cancelled. Hers is not an isolated case, and one for whom we might expect little sympathy from the soldiers who fought in Syria and Iraq. Public opinion seemed to be to ‘let her rot’. So when reporter, Aoife Lennon (Jane Fitzcarter) sets out to write a piece which agrees with the government’s refusal of Shamima she enlists support from returned soldier Captain Kane (Nicholas Boulton). His response was not what she expects, mired as he is with guilt and remorse for events he experienced and instigated. Their interaction drives the narrative.
As in all Henry Naylor’s plays the dialogue is sharp, pithy, hard hitting and compelling. The actors do a magnificent job in these demanding roles. The simple stage setting works well, and the use of lighting and music add to the overall effectiveness of the production.
One could have asked for some humour, some lessening of the tension, as has been Naylor’s wont in previous plays, but it is hard to find humour in torture, prejudice, guilt and post traumatic stress. He has written this play with a darker pencil. It leaves the audience less with a sense of hope that the Arabian Nightmares will be resolved, than an awareness that it is all a terrible mess, with no ready solution apparent. Far from being didactic, this is a play that shoots its message home to an audience in a country where the government has not brought home the Australian women and children trapped in Syria.
JULIET LETTERS BY ELVIS COSTELLO
The Crossing Machine – Alma Hotel, Norwood 15 and 16 February
The story behind the music which make up the Juliet Letters is an interesting one, coming, as it does, from letters that many people have written to Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) in Verona, despite that fact that, if she had lived, she would be long dead by now. Elvis Costello used the inspiration of these letters to compose twenty songs, in collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet. Given that combination it follows the the music is quite wonderful, quirky at times, brooding, joyous and evocative. It takes a fine quartet to play this music, and a versatile and accomplished singer to perform this song cycle.
In The Crossing Machine we had four fine musicians, Marianna Rothschild, Kat Stevens, Jason Thomas and Janet Butler. They negotiated the changes in mood and rhythm, playing always with an impeccable understanding of the underlying mood of each song. The group is made up of classical trained musicians who ‘cross over’ from time to time to tackle works outside the standard repertoire.
The success of this work depends to a very large extent on the singer, and Douglas Kelly handled each and every one of the twenty songs with conviction, and sensitive vocal colour. From the opening song, Deliver Us, to the bitter Damnation’s Cellar and the final plaintive, The Birds Will Still Be Singing he conveyed the meaning and sentiment in each song. Considering that this work is often performed with three or four singers it says much for Douglas Kelly, who is at home with opera and lieder as he is with more contemporary music, that he succeeded so well.
It was, however, a collaborative performance as the musicians and singer carried all before them in this demanding song cycle.
Holden Street Theatres
Written by Moliere adapted by Liz Lochhead
Directed by Tony Cownie
From Moliere, through the Scottish poet and playwright Liz Lochhead and on to Holden Street Theatres, there runs a direct line from classic French satire to delightful buffoonery. Thanks to an inspired adaptation of the French classic and a cast of four actors, directed by Tony Cownie, the story rings out as relevant today as it was when first performed. It tells of the sanctimonious hypocrite and fraudster, Tartuffe (Andy Clark) who has pulled the wool well and truly over the eyes of Orgon (Henry Ward). He is so bedazzled by the ‘saintly’ Tartuffe that he insists his daughter marry him, much to her dismay, as she loves another. Orgon’s wife Elmire (Nicola Roy) and maid Delfine (Joyce Falconer) contrive to unmask Tartuffe, and restore normality and order. Needless to say the daughter will marry the man she loves and all live happily ever after.
In a story told in broad Scots rhyming couplets, but with English surtitles to aid the Australian ear, the drama moves apace, with sex, sauce and satire keeping the audience entertained for the entire show. Great performances from all the actors, but especially delightful were the two seduction scenes, where Elmire uses her not insignificant allure to draw the villain, Tartuffe, from his facade of piety. Delfine, as the all-knowing, all-seeing and all-hearing maid keeps the audience informed and, as the story unfolds Orgon, well meaning but foolish, as he is, is well served by the two women who save him from ruin. Needless to say Tartuffe gets his cum uppence in the end. Enough written – come and see for yourselves. Tartuffe was a sell out in Edinburgh, and I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t do just as well in Adelaide. It deserves to do so.
Space Theatre 29 and 30 November
Composer and Director- Kiah Gossner
Contact could best be described as a cinematic experience in music, or a symphony n seven movements, following the themes expressed in the poetry of Dom Symes, and enhanced by the set design of Jill Holliday, the lighting of Peter Gossner, the images projected by film maker Thomas McCammon; all aided by the artistic collaborator Miranda Daughtry and the graphic designs of Julie Thornberg Thorsee. I acknowledge these as Contact, although stemming from and inspired by a narrative theme developed by Kiah Gossner, became very much a collaborative creation, including the group of skilled musicians.
Kiah Gossner has set out, through this multimedia experience, to offer a way to confront the experience of domestic violence, especially on children. Yet there is no sense of the didactic or confrontation. As the audience is embraced by the music which flows and extends, at times gentle, at times urgent, always unique, the words of the poems are shown as part of the backdrop, fragmented and evocative. These poems are printed in full in the program, and it would be well worth while to read them there beforehand. There is so much visual stimulation, through images and lighting that it is difficult to concentrate on one area. Images, such as hands being washed, dough being kneaded, a cake being iced alternate with scenes of vast empty spaces; nature and domesticity contrasted. Jill Holliday’s set, which she designed working from the theme, consists of five light boxes, lit from within and back drop screens depicting fractured edges, reminiscent of Picasso, with the large eyes and distorted faces. It was extraordinarily effective.
But it is the music that permeates. Kiah has chosen musicians in whom he has great trust as he allows for improvisation and development within his original composition. They must be named: Bass, Kiah Gossner, Synth, Mat Morison, Piano, Dave McAvoy, Guitar, Django Rowe, Drums, Kyrie Anderson, Sax and Flute, Adam Page and String Quartet, Julian Ferraretto. The music is difficult to classify. It’s edgy at times, visceral, music to be felt, not analysed.
Contact appeals to all the senses, a journey, which Kiah describes as ‘one that continues to exist relatively unspoken at the heart of our broken country’ and to which he invites his audience to undertake. It is theatre and music at its most innovative and exciting.
ADELAIDE WIND ORCHESTRA
23 November – Concordia College Chapel
Conductor Bryan Griffiths
One of the many AWO’s proudest accomplishments in its short history was this year’s Composition Workshop and Contest, which saw nine new, original works written by Australian composers. After a thorough assessment process it was Connor Fogarty who achieved first place for his work Three Landscapes and it was this delightfully evocative work with which the concert opened. The music, occasionally reminiscent of Malcolm Arnold, was given an assured interpretation by AWO displaying yet again their excellent dynamic control and confidence in ensemble. The depiction of Forest Awakening (second movement) was masterful in concept with the exposed entries for percussion and bassoon handled with confidence, although the sparse nature of the writing tested intonation at times. The confident playing was due in no small measure to the very assured direction of Conductor Bryan Griffiths.
Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy received a slightly different treatment to the usual with excerpts from the poems on which the folk songs were based given in excellent character by Michael Baldwin. However this dislocation of the presentation did not upset the sense of ensemble within the orchestra. The horns had ample opportunity to flex their muscles, while the first trumpet, Carly Cameron, excelled in Horkstow Grange, while Tegan Beck’s piccolo was frequently given a serious workout. Perhaps the best known ‘flower’ in the posy, Lost lady Found, presented some balance problems not hitherto confronted.
Violinist Jacquie Milenko Carias joined the AWO as guest performer in Symphony d’aere by Kristen Milenko. This symphonic soundscape was debuted by the Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony in 2017, and is a comment on how the environment is being afflicted by the disposable society in which we live. The AWO gave a faithful performance of a difficult work full of atmospherics with hints of Janacek. The juxtaposition of solo violin and full wind and brass sections provided the inevitable result of the violin being decidedly submerged. One had to wonder at the inclusion of solo harp and violin, as their presence could only be really felt when they played unaccompanied. The performance was accompanied by projected images of plastic pollution from the world’s oceans.
A much reduced AWO presented the epic finale for 2020 – the Dances of Life and Death by Ross Edwards. This work features three contrasting movements conveying the polarising experiences of its namesake. The smaller group meant, of course, greater responsibility per player; another acknowledgement of the overall skill and competence of the entire ensemble. The demanding hypnotic atmosphere of the second movement, Chorale, was particularly well-sustained with the piccolo much in demand. The percussion section featured strongly in the final movement Dance of Life and Death providing strong soloistic drive. Again the dynamic control was such that the subtle vibraphone entry was clear and effective. As intended, the work ended with a controlled frenzy. Ross Edwards has again provided us with something of substance from the contemporary repertoire and again the AWO has proven itself equal to the task of interpretation, no matter the period or style.
MADAMA BUTTERFLY Giacomo Puccini
State Opera South Australia
A common complaint about opera is that the plots are not believable and the soprano always dies in the end, usually mad. While the latter might be said about Madama Butterfly, as the soprano does die at the end, mad with grief, the plot is not unrealistic, presenting an all too common situation of exploitation in the colonial era.There is no need to reiterate the story except to write that Butterfly, at the end, abandoned, and bereft of her son, chooses honour in death.
The role of Butterfly is very demanding. She is never off stage after her entrance early in the first act. Mariana Hong, as Butterfly is magnificent, both vocally and in representing a young woman, vulnerable, trusting, and, when betrayed, choosing honour in her despair. Piece by piece she builds the person of Butterfly from the young girl alternating between coquettishness, shyness, and hero worship to the woman who stands immobile all night waiting for her husband, daring anyone to question that he will return. There is dignity and integrity, and heroism in her last moments.
Poor Pinkerton. Usually booed at the end, the most unsympathetic tenor role in all of opera. Angus Wood sang with strength and a certain brashness, as Pinkerton must, together with some fine high note in true tenor quality. There was tenderness and passion, along with the belief that being American gave him a sense of entitlement. So, in the end, we couldn’t warm to him.
Of the other main roles, Caitlin Cassidy was a very sympathetic Susuki, in fine voice, and Douglas McNicol as Sharpless, gave his usual strong performance. Of the other, smaller roles, all filled their roles well.
The set was cleverly designed in the style of a Japanese house with walls that could be moved to change the dimensions, or reveal the outside garden. Lighting changed the mood, and times, Lanterns and stars evoked the emotions. The final scene where Butterfly is seen as though in a cage symbolises her earlier reference to the fate of real butterflies. It was a powerful image.
The space where the action takes place is not large and there is an economy of movement. More might have looked fussy and distracting and is not necessary. The actions in the music. Repeated themes, phrases, whispers, shimmering strings or urgent percussion; it’s all there in Puccini’s score and when the singing is as fine as it was last night, it is all that is needed.
Adelaide Youth Orchestras Gala Concert
Adelaide Town Hall, 10 November 2019
A CELEBRATION OF YOUTH AND MUSIC
Was it Britain’s last Hurrah, or a celebration of Brexit that inspired the British theme for this gala concert? The stage was draped with Union Jacks and the music was predominantly by British composers, but the young musicians embodied Australian youth at its very best, demonstrating what they had achieved this year with the help of dedicated tutors, conductors and the indefatigable Keith Crellin OAM.
The Adelaide Town Hall was packed with proud parents, prouder grandparents, as well as many of the ‘who’s who’ in Adelaide’s musical community, including myself, representing 5mbs, the radio music station being part of the ’who’, not me. This was the showcase of the various groups of under the umbrella of AdYO and we were there to enjoy a great concert.
To open the program Bryan Griffiths took the Adelaide Youth Wind Orchestra through their paces, and wonderfully sonorous paces they were, especially the Irish Tune from County Derry by Percy Grainger.
This was followed by Youth Sinfonia, a group of frighteningly young musicians who had been guided by their conductor Minas Berberyan, concluding with a sprightly Fantasia on British Songs, by Henry Wood. which continued the theme of Britain and British music. I’m not sure where Home Sweet Home fitted in unless it was the expression of the sailor’s yearning for home.
After interval Martin Butler took the Adelaide Youth Strings through a selection of playful music which included music by Britten, Sherman and Gruselle. Tutti bravi as the musicians were, the prize in this segment must go to James Skelton in his clarinet solo. As my companion opined: Benny Goodman couldn’t have done better! A very young man going places, is James Skelton.
And we came to the Adelaide Youth Orchestra with Keith Crellin at the helm. Many of these young musicians are students at the Elder Conservatorium, and also have been members of AdYO over a number of years, beginning in the smaller groups to graduate to the main orchestra, ready to tackle anything composers have to offer. They began with Wasps Overture by Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was a large orchestra, spanning the town hall stage, and they took the audience with them through this atmospheric piece, and on to Pomp and Circumstance March no 1 in D by Elgar, where the member of the audience were encouraged to sing. So encouraged were they that they demanded a replay.
While bush fires rage throughout Australia, farmers deal with the ravages of drought and many people struggle with the vicissitudes of life this concert was a wonderful reminder that while we have young people who can play music like that, and older people who give their time and experience to guide them, all is not lost. Viva AdYO!!
SHIK SHAK SHOK
Nexus Arts 31 October 7.30pm
A BEIRUT NIGHTCLUB
The inspiration behind Shik Shak Shok is the colourful world of Beirut’s night life as it would have been experienced in the 1950s and 60s. Thus the Nexus Arts theatre was transformed into a cabaret lounge. The back wall was a bar. The wall behind the stage featured a video of a woman belly dancing with amazing agility, grace and athleticism. Unfortunately some of this was blocked by the tables on the stage. The wall to left featured another video of a dancer, equally skilled. We could but watch, and sigh, knowing that such feats were beyond normal mortals.
The music, a selection Arabic and neo-Arabic grooves had a strong eastern flavour with obvious influence from western music, demonstrated by the choice of instruments. This transformation to another world was effected by Lebanese-born Paris-based producer, Hadi Zeidan, who played the music from a desk at the other side of the room.
For those patrons who enjoy being thoroughly immersed in the sounds and colours from another culture, (and is this not what the OzAsia Festival is all about?) were more than satisfied. For others, the experience was too overwhelming and they left early. That left the groovers to drink another cocktail and party on.
Oz Asia Festival
Space Theatre 25-26 October
POSTMODERNISM MEETS PROTEST
Jaha Koo is a South Korean theatre/performance maker and music composer, and this production included his own music, video, text and installation. Cuckoo refers to the brand of rice cookers produced in Korea. Much as we call vacuum cleaners Hoovers, rice cookers are known by their brand name. There would be very few households in South Korea that do not own a Cuckoo. Therefore it was fitting that three Cuckoos, Hana, Duri and Siri took centre stage while the man responsible for the conception, production and direction of the play, Jaha Koo, acted as narrator.
Cuckoo explores the effect on South Korea of the Day of Humiliation when, due to a major economic crisis in Asia twenty years ago the South Korean government was forced to sign an agreement with the IMF, virtually surrendering control of their economic policies. The result was heightened interest rates, many businesses being declared bankrupt, high unemployment, emigration, an escalating rate of suicide and a period of severe unrest which impacted particularly on the youth of the nation.
It is a grim scenario, brought to the Space Theatre through film clips of the unrest and rioting, through a personal story as told by Jaha Koo in both Korean and English, with translations on the large screen; the story of his friends who committed suicide; the treatment of the workers, whose workplace safety was secondary to productivity and a spirited discussion between Duri and Siri. (Remember them?) So while the scenario is grim it is presented with variety.
To what end? Is this just one facet of the younger generation railing against the mistakes of the past which have brought their present and future to such uncertainty? Was the fact that through it all the Cuckoo Hana cooked the rice which was tipped on to the stage, carved up into building blocks, then placed one on top to he other until they collapsed, somehow summing up the message in Cuckoo the play? In the end I was not sure, so while I found much to applaud and admire in this skilful piece of theatre, I was left wondering was there more to it than a journey through a time of history and personal experience?
BEYOND SKIN – REVISITED
OzAsia Festival 17 October 2019
A CLASS ACT
The OzAsia Festival opened with a show fresh from a sellout season in London. Nitin Sawhney is now known as a composer, producer and musician. But it all began twenty years ago when he produced a CD, Broken Skin, recorded and mixed in his bedroom using basic equipment. Its immediate success ensured his future.
Two numbers, Sunset and Moonrise provided the warm up which gave the audience time to appreciate the quality of the musicians. Nitin Sawhney playing guitar and keys, two vocalists, Nicki Wells and Eva Stone, violinist Anna Phoebe McElligott and tabla player Aref Durvesh were, quite simply, brilliant in recreating Beyond Skin live, with some additions, due to technical prowess, from the original tracks.
The spoken introductions by Nitin to each number highlighted the underlying concepts which inspired the music twenty years ago, and which are as relevant today as they were then. For example Homelands, Immigrant and Anthem without Nation reflect the loneliness, the homesickness, the yearning for identity that beset so many people who have left their land and home. Serpents was a rhythmic delight and Conference introduced as a singalong, was a lovely joke the audience
There are twelve songs in all, with the first track called Broken Skin and the final one Beyond Skin. That, perhaps says it all. This music, as it was performed on the stage at Festival Theatre, could be classified as world music, not in the sense of the genre, but in the sense that in sound, in, emotion and in execution it belongs to all peoples.
ADELAIDE YOUTH ORCHESTRA
Elder Hall Sunday 22 September 2019 3.00pm
As Keith Crellin, Artistic Director and Conductor of AdYO explained, this concert was a celebration of youth at many levels. To begin, three young soloists were given the opportunity to play a concerto with a full orchestra. The concert concluded with Symphony No 1 in D minor Op.13 by Rachmaninoff, who was only twenty-two when he composed it. This symphony is rarely performed, possibly overshadowed by Rachmaninoff’s later compositions, but it is one that deserves its place in the orchestral repertoire.
The first half of the program was devoted to the three concerti, or parts thereof. Lynda Latu was the soloist in the first and second movements of Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor Op.26, a formidable undertaking as this concerto is so well known. Latu’s playing revealed a beautiful tone, control and musicianship which augurs well for her future in the world of music. No less could be said of Tommy Ng who played the first movement of York Bowen’s Viola Concerto Op. 25. Unlike the Bruch, the music of Bowen is not often played today, but he was a vey successful composer in his lifetime. Nor is the viola the usual solo instrument but Ng, revealed in his playing, that on both counts this music and the viola deserve to be heard more frequently. His performance was played with authority, strength and verve. Finally, Will Madden played the Trumpet Concerto in A-flat major by Arutiunian. This piece is a favourite audition piece, described as being full of hard but not unreasonable technical challenges as well as being fun to play and enjoyable for the audience. Madden certainly tackled the challenges with aplomb, excellent control of dynamics and a spectacular cadenza. The orchestra, whose support for all three was exemplary, should be given praise for their playing of music by three very different composers.
Rachmaninoff’s First Symphony is one that demands much from an orchestra. Its four movements range from romantic, almost ‘film music’ to drama, long slinky melodies and a very compelling finale. The young musicians, some of whom are still in high school, took a deep breath and plunged into the complexities and challenges with fire in their hearts, until the final note. It was a thrilling experience to sit in the hall and hear them.
Some of the players will go on to be professional musicians. Others will work in other areas, but be amateurs in the true meaning of the word. All will be grateful to Keith Crellin in particular, and the other tutors, staff and supporters of AdYO who allowed them the chance to play such music.
I would like to compliment David John Lang whose program notes are always interesting, informative and delightfully expressed. He epitomises the talent and expertise behind the Adelaide Youth Orchestra. If you have not been to any of their concerts, time to do so!
Dividing the Estate
written by Horton Foote
Red Phoenix Theatre Production
Directed by Libby Drake
Holden Street Theatres, Holden Street 22-31 August.
Dividing the Estate might just have easily been called The Estate Dividing as members of a family squabble and manoeuvre in an attempt to persuade the matriarch to sell her home and farmland and dispense the expected inheritance before, rather than after, she dies. Written by the highly successful American Horton Foote, it is set in Texas USA in the 1980s, but it speaks to ‘everytime’, as younger generations may covet, with a sense of entitlement, the assets and savings of the older generations, who will hold on tightly to their property and wealth with an equally strong sense of entitlement. In Dividing the Estate the situation is exacerbated by a downturn in the economy.
The cast consists of characters who are as deeply aware of their own needs as they are oblivious to the needs of others. This situation leads to conflict and some sharp dialogue, although the play is not without humour. Well paced, the interest never flags, but the first act was somewhat marred by the tendency of some actors to begin speaking at such a volume that they were left with nowhere to go as their emotions heightened.
This charge could not be levelled at Jean Walker (Stella) whose performance was extraordinarily fine. As the matriarch she was attuned to all that was going on around her. There were other excellent performances, but with such a large cast it is impossible to name everybody. Lyn Wilson (Lucille) and Cate Rogers (Mary Jo) sparred as only sisters can. Lindsay Dunn (Bob) was totally convincing as was Mark Mulders (Son) in the less rewarding role as the ‘good’ member of the family. The young nieces, (Emily and Sissie), played by Jasmine Leech and Nicole Walker epitomised the vacuous selfish younger members of the family. Brendan Cooney (Lewis) was the neer-do-well son, who showed a better side to his character in the second act. Wayne Anthoney (Doug) portrayed the elderly and treasured servant who was as capable of manipulation as any member of the family,
The strength of this play is that you come to feel that you know these people and actually start to care about what happens to them. It brings up issues and concerns that lead to discussion afterwards – always a sign of a good play or film. Red Phoenix Theatre has already a firmly established reputation for bringing stimulating, well acted and well produced plays to Holden Street Theatres where it is the resident company. This play lives up to that standard.
Woodville Town Hall
At this Special Edition of the Guitar Festival the Punch Brothers returned. Comprising of Chris Thile, mandolin; Chris Eldridge, guitar; Paul Kowert, bass; Noam Pikelny, banjo and Gabe Witcher, fiddle, this classic bluegrass lineup does not, in the main, play bluegrass. The band, led by main writer, singer and mandolinist Thile, take the genre to many places new.
It may appear odd that a progressive group such as this would adopt a very old style of presentation, harking back to the 30’s and 40’s when microphones were not the norm. The band all crowd around a single microphone in a semi circle, moving closer to and then away, depending on the intended mix and who is to solo. The sole exception was the bass, even though Kowert had a pickup he still joined the semi circle. Puzzling at first, soon it becomes apparent that the result is a far more intimate and powerful performance, with interaction between the band members a feature.
In contrast to bluegrass, this is highly composed music with little improvisation and great contrast in compositional style, some songs sound as if they would lend themselves to a rock band, others have a classical or folk feel. Many of the songs came from the Grammy winning album “All Ashore”
The music was uplifting and and beautifully presented, with Thile bopping his head like a seasoned rocker, Witcher adding sublime fiddle runs, Eldridge and Pikelny sounding great.
If you have an opportunity to see them, don’t miss out.
By Dennis Johnson
Featuring the outstanding talents of saxophonist Sarah Byron, the AWO presented another first class concert tracing the historical development of the modern symphonic wind ensemble. It more or less all began with the music of John Phillip Sousa, as did this concert. We were treated to a masterful rendition of The Thunderer, with the very reliable low brass balanced by excellent dynamic control from upper winds.
You’ll Come Matilda is a humorous adaptation of the almost National Anthem by Jess Langston Turner containing some tricky phrasings and time changes, highlighted by the intentionally gauche ‘waltz like’ interjections which succeeded due to the band’s confident control. The fleeting glimpse of ‘the kookaburra’ would have brought a wry smile to the faces of ‘Men at Work !’
Morton Gould’s Symphony for Band ( 1952 ) celebrated the 150th Anniversary of West Point and tended to wander somewhat aimlessly as it conveyed the ‘in memorium’ theme. While there was a minor intonation glitch in the first movement, this was more than cancelled out by the near breathtaking sustained legato pianissimo controlled by the six trumpets – against the odds of varying dynamics of the rest of the band. The second movement was rather tedious although the ‘fife and drums’ section gave a lift.The work closed with the expected big finish.
Shoutout (2009 ) by Roshanne Etezady is another work of seemingly disconnected solos trying to interrupt a noisy conversation. It is said to have ‘an energetic dance with a hard groove‘ which may explain the sudden and virtuosic xylophonic explosion handled with great skill in section two! Again balance needs to be carefully thought about when employing mallet percussion as soloists against the full band. This time the vibraphone was the loser.
Saxophonist Sarah Byron already has a formidable CV of prestigious performances throughout Europe and she brought all her skills to bear with consummate ease in a calm and assured performance of Ingolf Dahl’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone (1956 ). She handled the ‘super’ Altissimo register established by sax virtuoso Sigurd Rascher (for whom the work was written ) with complete mastery displaying mellifluous introspection and aggressive assertion as required.
The concert concluded , appropriately, with Ira Hearshen’s After The Thunderer from Symphony on Themes of J P Sousa and was more or less an inflated version of the original. It was all fanfare with wide ranging dynamics as clear as they were, due to the excellent, disciplined control of the whole band (or should I say orchestra ?!) .Of particular note were the beautiful legato horn lines .
Conductor David John Lang provided confident clear direction all night without getting in the way . The Adelaide Wind Orchestra is an ensemble of which this city should be rightly proud and which deserves a wider audience than they currently enjoy.
Vadim Gluzman violin and Daniel de Borah piano
Recitals Australia Elder Hall June 23
You don’t need a CD to hear a perfect performance! The technical abilities of these two performers were outstanding; one had the feel they could shape the music however they wanted. Their partnership seemed to be intuitive, they barely glanced at each other but were in perfect accord. It was a balanced program, too, with a contemporary, meditative piece and a well-known significant composition in each half.
The Russian-born composer Lera Auerbach wrote ‘par.ti.ta’ specifically for Gluzman and her love of Bach is apparent in the fragments of his concertos floating through it. It was like being in outer space and hearing improvisations on Bach themes wafting up!
But when the violinist eventually launched into the Allemande of Partita no 2, it was a relief – as if he had found what he was looking for! Hearing this well-known piece with a piano accompaniment by Robert Schumann was a new experience – it was almost a different piece of music. Maybe because Johann Sebastian was a keyboard player and violinist, he was very aware that his solo sonatas had enough harmonies sketched in to stand alone. Schumann was a pianist and perhaps missed the full realisation of the harmonic structure. The keyboard part was subtle, it contributed a bass line and occasional snatches of themes and worked well in the four dance movements.
Personally I found the piano part changed the character of the Chaconne, it came over as a monumental, overwhelming force. It reminded me of Stokowski’s orchestral version of the D minor Prelude and Fugue in ‘Fantasia’!
Depending on the performer, the solo Chaconne is a meditation, variations on a theme, sections demanding special tonal subtleties, hints of harmonies. So despite the technical and emotional rapport of the players it was, as I said, a different piece.
After the interval we were treated to a balanced, imaginative performance of Arvo Part’s ‘Spiegel am Spiegel’. An exercise in how to make eight notes interesting and animating for ten minutes. The even, singing tone of the violin and the precise, balanced piano part blended superbly.
The last piece, Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ was also monumental. It is a departure from the predictable Classical Sonata in every way and even from Beethoven’s preceding sonatas for violin and piano. It was described by its dedicatee Rudolf Kreutzer, who never performed it, as ‘outrageously unintelligible’! We are familiar with it, but it is still a challenge to the performers and the listeners. The pianist, de Borah, played it as if he had written it! The technical fireworks and the lyrical phrases were played with total mastery and conviction. The violinistic gymnastics were also perfectly executed and the high register of the instrument sang so sweetly. The tempi were very fast which left little opportunity for lyrical phrasing. But it was a pleasure to watch the two musicians play with complete mastery of their instruments and with an instinctive partnership in interpretation. Maybe there was a lack of warmth in the performance, but the intellectual aspect of the pieces was excellently showcased.
Alma Zygier Quintet
Pre-WWII music was again celebrated (See Hot Sardines) in this wonderful performance featuring the incredibly expressive vocals of Zygier. Backed by a four piece in the Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France style with Brennan Hamilton-Smith on clarinet and tenor sax instead of Grappelly’s violin, Zyglier presented a stunning vocal performance giving her all into each song.
From the outset, this was Zygier’s show, her complete immersion in every song from the first note to the last was complete, with her arms adding dramatic effect as they waved in every direction, her facial expressions squeezed out every nuance and emotion from every song.
Aside from the above mentioned clarinetist, the band consisted of Dan Whitten, bass and guitarists Sam O’Halloran and Lachlan Mitchell. They provided a Parisian feel to the proceedings but, to be fair, it was Zygier who dominated the proceedings just as it should be.
She trawled though some of the best songs of the era including, “My Funny Valentine”, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, “Summertime”, “Lady Be Good” and her personal favourite, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
Zygier threw everything into this performance and the result was outstanding.
Roscoe James Irwin
Chet Baker is one of Jazz’s most tragic figures, brilliant trumpeter, distinctive vocalist but a hopeless junkie and it is this that dominated most of his life. Cat Power trumpeter Irwin pays tribute to the late Baker with this show.
Irwin came on stage looking very much like an early pre-drug ravaged Baker, handsome and full of talent. The show featured the half dozen albums he made for Pacific Jazz between 1953 and 1956 and on his vocal work, surprising as on vast majority of albums in his massive discography Baker did not sing. That being said, Baker possessed a unique voice that was not typical of jazz singers and so polarised jazz lovers and Irwin managed to sound remarkably similar, truly evoking the spirit of Chet Baker, as he also managed with his fine trumpet and flugelhorn playing.
As Baker often was in his career, Irwin was backed by a piano trio, David Goodwin, piano, Tim Bowen, bass and Ben Riley, drums. But the masterstroke was the addition of the 10 piece string section and Irwin’s excellent arrangements that added just the right ambience. The choice of songs, although solely vocal, was also spot on, “My Funny Valentine”, of course, “My Heart Stood Still”, “Time After Time” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily” being prime examples.
Throughout Irwin successfully informed the audience about Baker in a very casual way, although the dialogue could be a little tighter.
Special mention to 15 year old guest vocalist Jazmine Vanua, who sang two songs and that’s enough to show that she has the potential to be an excellent vocalists in the future
The Hot Sardines do something that no-one else does, update the music of the swing era and even before that, to something we all can love. Led by pianist Evan Palazzo, looking very dapper in his suit and hat, and the perfect vocalist in Elizabeth Bougerol, the band trawled through the early years of jazz with wit, sass and class.
While the all female rhythm section held the band tight, the brass of Josh Chenoweth (trumpet), Ben Golder-Novick ( clarinet, tenor sax) and Todd Londagin (trombone) led the charge with crisp, brief solos, adding swing and humour to the proceedings.
Yes the playlist went back, way back! “After You’re Gone”, Fats Waller’s “Your Feet’s Too Big”, “I Love Paris In The Springtime”, “Bill Bailey” and even Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”.
And in addition to all of this was the ace, tap dancer A. C. Lincoln. When not showing off he remained seated with a huge grin and great hat, adding rhythm with his feet. Charismatic he most certainly is and his presence made the show so much better.
There is one aspect of this show that cannot be overlooked and that is James Morrison. James Morrison?? Correct. The band have been here before, to Mt Gambier last year to guest at James Morrison’s jazz school. So impressed were they that they hired two Adelaide musicians, the aforesaid Todd Londagin and bassist Bonnie Aue to join the band on the next leg of their world tour. Just what Morrison intended. Oh, and they were so good, fitting in seamlessly to this very professional outfit.
Jazz can be fun and the Hot Sardines proved that in spades!
Lior with Paul Grawbowsky
Dunstan Playhouse June 7
Adelaide Cabaret Festival
A MUSICAL MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN
Lior and Paul Grawbowsky do not seem, at first glance, as an obvious musical partnership. That it is so was demonstrated in the Dunstan Playhouse last night. Grawbosky opened the show with October, a solo piece, then Lior joined him on the stage for more than an hour of some of his most popular songs, introduced by the stories that were their inspiration. Lior traced his musical life through the three albums that he has produced, as each represented different periods in his life. From the beginning there was exuberance in numbers such as Bedouin Song and Daniel’s Song. The former was inspired by Lior’s time with the Bedouins in Israel and Grabowsky’s arrangement matched the Middle Eastern style. I would have liked to have heard more of this genre.
The second album, recorded in a darker period of Lior’s life was reflected in Heal Me and then there was the deeply personal tribute to his grandfather, He Never Spoke His Name. Autumn Flow inspired some great jazz piano from Grawbowsky, although throughout the evening the harmonies, rhythm and the colours reflected in his arrangements added to the emotional impact of the songs. Lior uses his voice like an instrument at times. At others his diction is clear and the feelings behind the song are clearly expressed. Paul Grawbowsky is a master of the piano, playing with authority and sensitivity. It was indeed a musical partnership that hopefully will continue.
Both men have an easy stage presence, as well as being very comfortable with each other. The audience responded in kind. As Lior said of an earlier concert, you could feel the love, and you could also hear the happy appreciative comments as people left the theatre. It is a shame that they are not repeating this show to give others a chance to enjoy.
END OF THE RAINBOW
State Theatre Company South Australia in association with Adelaide Cabaret Festival Royalty Theatre 5-22 June
Director: Elena Carapetis
by Emily Sutherland
What a night! What a show! How apt that this story be part of the Cabaret Festival. Judy Garland, a singer and film star over a forty-five year career was a great cabaret artist and a legend in her life time. That legend lives on in End of the Rainbow.
Judy Garland was destroyed by drugs, alcohol, insecurities and emotional abuse. The film studio where she worked as a child must accept a great deal of blame for this, but it is Judy herself who had to deal with her addictions throughout her life. This is the story we know, and on which the writer Peter Quilter has drawn his play depicting the final months. The story begins in a London hotel room, where Judy prepares for a season at the Top of the Town, hoping to repair her financial situation as well as her career. She believes that she has found a man who loves her. Micky Deans will be her salvation. Then we watch the gradual crumbling of her hopes and career.
Helen Dallimore plays the demanding role of Judy Garland. She looks like Judy, she sings with a voice full of power, pathos and charm as she wows the audience, and as a woman she ranges between vulnerability to profanity and aggression to despair. It’s a bravura performance, as Dallimore dominates each scene.
This is not to denigrate the two main co-stars. Nic English as Mickey Deans, the man destined to be husband number five, presents as a man who, unable to prevent Garland’s excesses, eventually supplies her with what she craves. Is he motivated by greed, love or desperation? A question raised, and left for the audience to answer.
Stephen Sheehan, who plays Anthony Chapman, the pianist and friend, is superb. His final scene with Judy, where he offers her the chance of a more settled (if rather boring) life is a point of humanity and gentle kindness in the show, contrasting with the tension and high drama which has gone before.
It’s a fitting tribute to a great yet tragic performer whose vulnerability reached out to an audience which was prepared to love her. This love was not enough to save her, and End of The Rainbow is a brilliant portrayal of this incredibly sad story. No Judy Garland fan should miss it. And neither should anyone who appreciates good theatre miss it.
ADELAIDE WIND ORCHESTRA
Concordia College Chapel
Saturday May 18 2019
Music inspired by the natural wonders of the Arctic provided a programme of 20th Century Impressionism for this concert by the AWO. The two works before interval were Australian premieres, while the main work afterwards was a magnificent tour de force by American composer Michael Colgrass.
Finnish composer Geirr Tveitt’s ‘Sinfonia di Soffiatori’ was a sometime rambling work in three movements which the AWO handled with considerable skill, as in fact they did with the entire programme. Playing more like an orchestra than a band, they displayed a good command of the challenges set before them. The opening horn obligato was played with real confidence, while the somewhat violent time changes of the third movement were executed with confidence, thanks in no small measure to the consummate skills of conductor Bryan Griffiths, whose beat patterns were always clear and concise.
The Palace Rhapsody of Aulis Sallinen is a suite from his opera ‘The Palace’, and as such suffered from our collective lack of knowledge of the larger work. It premiered in Finland in 1995 , receiving its English version premiere in New York in 1998. The Rhapsody came across as a series of vignettes, not particularly well connected to each other. Unfortunately an extensive solo section for marimba near the beginning was rather lost competing against the full wind section, but an outstanding bass clarinet solo later in the work again demonstrated the confidence and skill typical of this ensemble. The confident ‘choreography ‘ of the percussion section as they negotiated their collection of instruments throughout did not go unnoticed!
Michael Colgrass’ tone poem Arctic Dreams was a wonderful conclusion to a formidable night’s work by the AWO. His six sections illustrating the wildness and desolation of Arctic Canada and the life of the Inuit people were convincingly interpreted particularly with the assistance of a small vocal ensemble (which occasionally suffered from balance problems) who provided the Inuit ‘Throat Singing’ conveying their sense of humour so well that it was difficult not to laugh out loud in response .
The AWO is a very competent ensemble, whose intonation, phrasing and sense of ensemble (that ’togetherness’ so vital collective unity) is a pleasure to observe. Attend their next concert and you will be musically uplifted
DREAM BIG Festival Theatre 22 March – 1 June
I arrived at Adelaide Festival Centre to find myself knee deep in small children. Some were painting, some dancing, some waiting to see a show, as was I. Dream Big 2019 is Festival for Children, and this year the focus is on empathy. This was very evident in the two shows I reviewed.
NEW OWNER by The Last Great Hunt
Space Theatre May 25 and 26
Ages 9-14 years
Created by: Arielle Gray and Tim Watts
2019 Season Performed by: Tim Watts and Rachael Woodward
Design & Gadgets: Anthony Watts
Original Music Composition: Rachael Dease
Puppet Design & Construction: Chloe Flockart
Credit is due to all who helped create this delightful story of a young puppy, Bart, who is adopted by Mabel, an elderly lady. As Mabel grows older she is no longer able to look after him properly. Bart finds himself in a series of quite hairy adventures until he he finds a new owner, and another dog-friend. It’s all told with puppetry, people and images, visual cues and music. The puppetry is such that we can really believe that the little creature with the wagging tale is really a dog. Bart survives improbable situations, but the narrative is tight and holds the attention the audience. Who can resist a brave little dog who learns to scavenge, rescues his new dog-friend and finally finds a new home? Certainly not this reviewer.
KATIE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY
John Bishop Room 25 and 26 May
Katie is having a birthday party and for the first time her best friend is not coming, but Katie is cool with that. Her friend had to go to another party for a girl at her new school. Katie is at a different school, one which she finds confusing and strange. But that is all right because Katie is cheerful and full of friendship towards the members of the audience who have come to her party. She quickly engages them in a party game of truth or dare. Gradually we come to learn that all is not well in Katie’s life and her best friend is no longer a friend at all. In the thirty-five minutes of the show Katie shares her insecurities, her sense of rejection and the difficulties moving from childhood to adolescent. But, Katie has learned there are rules to follow when life becomes painful, as it does so often, and she shares her rules for being happy with the party-goers who are, by now, completely captivated by her.
Mary-Frances Doherty is an Irish actress and writer who, since she graduated from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2007, has had considerable success in creating theatre for young people.
Dream Big has other shows and events until June 1. If you are involved with children, grandchildren, or just children, take time to check out the program. There is lots more on offer.
AS REVIEWED BY LUCY CRAIG
The Last Great Hunt’s show New Owner tells a tale of love, loss and new beginnings. Although the show is made to be watched by children, it can be enjoyed by all. The use of sound, projection and space is done so effectively that perhaps it tells us more than words could. The footsteps of the dogcatcher, the choice of music and the sound effects in general create an immersive and effective show, all adding to the ambience of each scene. Although the hero of the story was a puppet in reality, Tim Watts brings him to life and expresses a stunning range of feeling. The relationships between characters are expressed wonderfully though the sounds and actions of the performers. The overall story is well rounded and unpredictable, leading the audience of a journey through the eyes of a fierce, yet loving dog.
KATIE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY
Katie’s Birthday Party by Mary Frances-Doherty is an immersive and very interesting show. We get a brief glimpse into the life of twelve year old Katie, her hopes and fears and the things that make her, her. The show itself is structured as though the audience are guests at her 12th birthday party. Throughout the show we are taken deeper and deeper into Katie’s life, as she lets us know pieces of information about the people in it and their relationships with her. The game of truth or dare is interactive in such a way that would work for the show no matter how the members of the audience reacted. There are many aspects of what Katie tells us that could be seen as awkward. Twelve is an awkward age and this is something Katie seems to be able to take in her stride. She is a positive and resilient kid, despite her rough start into secondary school.
This show needs to be completely immersive to be as effective as possible and that is where the show fell short for me. Mary Frances-Doherty’s character was thought through and well created, I could tell that when she was doing the show Katie was real for her but there were moments when she didn’t feel as real to the audience. Perhaps the performance I saw was on an off day, but even the momentary breaks in character created rips in the reality she had created.
Overall, Katie’s Birthday Party is a very well written and crafted show with some very real and genuine moments of vulnerability that take us on a journey through being twelve years old and all the things that come with it.
CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN Leos Janácek
State Opera South Australia
Ridley Centre, Adelaide Showground. 18-25 May
THE ESSENCE OF LIFE
A folk tale, encompassing both the simple life of villagers and the exploits of the creatures of the forest throughout the seasons conveying a deeper message – the essence of life: that is a big claim. Yet such is the magic of Janacek’s music. The original inspiration for the opera was a comic strip about the life of a vixen, and as the overture begins and the stage fills with furry, winged and creepy crawly creatures there is a sense of fun and good humour. Enter the Forester and he does nothing to spoil the mood, except swat a mosquito, until he notices a green frog, and then a vixen cub, whom he takes to his home as a pet. Vixens do not make ideal pets as shown as the story unfolds, yet there is a bond between the Vixen and the Forester that resonates throughout, until the conclusion.
This is a strong cast, with Desiree Frahn giving a superb performance as the Vixen, and James Clayton, who has sung the Forester many times before, in excellent voice, and looking and acting every inch the part. His reflective soliloquy in the final moments was one of the pivotal moments. Credit should be given to many of the smaller parts, among them Paul O’Neill (Schoolmaster) and Douglas McNicol (Harasta). A number of singers covered smaller roles which included the forest creatures and townspeople. Antoinette O’Halloran (Fox) swaggered in exemplary style while wooing the Vixen, but at times her voice in the upper register sounded strained. However, the love scene between her and Desiree Frahn put me in mind of both Mimi and Rodolfo and Romeo and Juliet. You need to see this opera for yourself to understand the references. The children’s chorus brought a sense of joyful exuberance to the stage with costumes designed by Roger Kirk. The set, designed by Richard Roberts, was unfussy but effective and evoked the change of location and season with a minimum of disruption. This was helped by Trudy Dagleish’s lighting. Sometimes less is better.
This opera is a special favourite of the the Director Stuart Maunder and he has brought years of love, plus the experience of directing it previously, to create a musical and dramatic production that combines the flair of a comic strip with the depth and awareness of how our lives. like nature, have their seasons, reflecting happiness and sadness, darkness and light.The conductor, Johann Fritzsch fulfilled a life long dream in conducting Cunning Little Vixen. He must take credit for the ASO sounding so good, especially the brass section.
The music, of itself, is worth going for. If you have a chance to see this opera, which has a very short season, take it. You will not be sorry.
Dunstan Playhouse 6 April
Produced by Kalalaya in association with Festival Centre
Kalalaya Academy presents Amazing India each year as a showcase for their students. This, in turn, allows others to appreciate the richness and tradition of this important nation. In short they bring a little slice of India to Adelaide. Adding to the visual effects in this multimedia production are the backdrops displaying both scenes of India, monuments, Indian gods, even Venice and Paris, complementing the action on stage. Of course it was the dancing, from the Bharatnatyam, a form dating back two thousand years, to the tributes to Bollywood, much of which was familiar to the audience, that was the centrepiece of the show. Indian dancing requires discipline, flexibility, suppleness, especially of the arms, hands and fingers, good balance, and a strong sense of rhythm. All these attributes were displayed by the many performers.
The costumes were totally amazing, blazing in colour and variety. Brought out from India for this performance, they encapsulated the glamour and exotic character of India. Much of the music was composed by Ramesh Menon, and he conducted the small orchestra, as well as playing himself. Priya Ramesh was the choreographer, and these two are also the principals of Kalalaya Academy which has been teaching Indian dance in Adelaide since 2005. Many of their students have years of training, and this showed in their technique and discipline. Some of the younger dancers were less secure in their performance, while the very small Toddlers won the heart of the audience with their version of Bollywood. Along with the dancing there was a chorus of singers and some fine solo vocalists. At times they provided a sung commentary to dancers in a courtship ritual.
There was much to see and hear, much to delight the audience. In giving so many dancers (150) a chance to perform, together with thirteen singers and a number of instrumentalists, the danger is in making the show too long. Amazing India was a long show, and it would also have benefited from an extra rehearsal in the theatre, to allow smoother transition between some scenes. But these are minor criticisms, and praise should be given to Priya and Ramesh for once more bringing India to Adelaide Festival Theatre.
Directed and choreographed by Hofesh Shechter, who also composed the percussion heavy electronic backing, this was a startling piece of modern dance. Opening to a dark, foreboding scene there was a palpable sense of the apocalypse as the ten members of the troupe commenced their extraordinary dance. In contrast to the apparent end, with what appeared to be the dead being dragged all over the stage, came the quintet of musicians, dressed as if they were on the Titanic, playing to the end and moving almost constantly from one part of the stage to another, also giving relief to the otherwise rather gloomy electronic score.
The dancing was brilliant, shifting constantly out of the hazy gloom from slow to frenetic, chaotic, as befits the apparent disaster, to simply stunning. Amongst all this were the props, huge mobile black slabs which the dancers moved about the stage, almost constantly creating new spaces. They were used to great effect, particularly in the final sequence when the blackness was divided into two “screens”, one focused on the quintet’s violinist, the other on stills of the dancers, captured in a small space, the picture changing as the light and dark oscillated.
As is evident, the lighting, or perhaps better described as darking, was a vital part of the production. Dancers moved from dark to light and back to the dark constantly, made all the gloomier by the use of persistent haze.
Don’t think that all this gloom makes this a dull affair, rather it is an enthralling dance with the plight and fight of the survivors to whatever disaster befell them laid bare.
The Trinity Sessions are a hidden treasure in Adelaide. Named after the Church Of Trinity, Goodwood Road, where the shows are held, this organisation have hosted many great names in the past and this is yet another.
A veteran of some 50 years in the music business, McTell is one of England’s finest songwriters and as is so often the case, overlooked by the mainstream. Thank god for Trinity Sessions for bringing him to the Fringe.
Unlike most Fringe shows, this went a full two hours and McTell held the stage the whole time and what a wonderful two hours it was!
It must be said that unlike many songwriters, McTell is also a first rate guitarist and his skills came to the fore when he deftly played guitar licks of some of the early blues masters, including the Rev. Gary Davis. Elsewhere his finger picking style was exemplary.
Making the most of his incredibly warm voice, McTell took the audience on a trip all over his vast catalogue and, inevitably, ended up with his hit, “Streets Of London”. Along the way he covered many career highlights, especially the beautiful “Clare To Here”. The songs gained much from his banter, providing real insights into the origins and meaning of his songs.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE (until you’re dead)
Star Theatre One&Two 15,15 16 March
Writer Sally Hardy
Director Danii Zappia
If you were planning a dress rehearsal for your funeral you would not choose the sister who has resented you all her life to give the eulogy. Suffering from a terminal illness, Louise, aka LuLu made this mistake and she can only endure it for a short time, as her sister Sophie, describes a childhood totally overshadowed by her singing, dancing, extrovert little sister. Lulu emerges from her coffin and in the ensuing conversation the sisters battle it out until they find that actually they did share happy memories. Death for Lulu would not be denied but Sophie would live a more positive life because of this sharing time with her sister.
Both Emily Burns as Sophie and Danii Zappia as Lulu are convincing in their roles. The former is bitter and introverted whilst the latter is exuberant and over-the-top. There is much humour in the earlier part of the play, but as the women reach a deeper appreciation of each other, through the recollection of childhood experiences, it becomes more reflective and serious. This transformation is lightened by music and replaying of times when they were supportive of each other. Even so at times the energy lagged and stronger vocal projection could well have helped to keep the momentum alive.
The idea of the memory box is an excellent device to demonstrate the new understanding between the sisters, and endorses the exploration of the concept of memory and how it can affect our lives and relationships. The play ends in an upbeat rendition of ‘Life is a Cabaret’. There is much to enjoy in this play which leaves members of the audience challenged, as they consider their personal relationships and, perhaps, who would be the best person to give the eulogy at their funeral.
Following on from the Others, see below, came a completely contrasting take on jazz. This trio, Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums), and Lloyd Swanton (bass) are a totally different beast altogether, in fact there is nothing like them anywhere else in the world. A piano trio, yes but from there no one else plays or sounds like them. They have a cult following and on the basis of these two sets that’s hardly surprising.
To put into context, all the music is totally improvised, nothing is planned, aside from the fact that one improvisation takes up, in this case, each 45 minute set, or however long they are scheduled to play. A single small motif from whoever decides to kick it off slowly evolves and changes almost imperceptibly to a frenzied, and totally engrossing, middle before slowing down again. Every performance is, of course completely new, in this case, the second set a little more emotive than the first. But that’s really not important.
The trio have been together for a long time and they have developed a level of interplay and understanding that is truly extraordinary. This is compounded by the fact that not one of them plays in the traditional manner, it is a piano trio in name only.
Seeing the Necks is an experience in itself and on the basis of this performance one that should be on every music lovers bucket list.
The question always was how is this going to work? A rock drummer, Spiderbait’s Kram, pianist Paul Grabowsky, one quite capable of working in almost any genre and James Morrison, trumpeter and trombonist, known for involvement in the mainstream genre almost to the exclusion of anything else. Oh, and no bass.
For a start, Kram clearly had no intention of learning jazz licks and dropping down on his attack. And nor should he. He didn’t change his appearance either, thankfully. And therein lies the secret of the success of this unlikely trio. On paper one would expect Grabowsky to be the driving force, but such was the power of Kram’s presence that this appeared to be the most decisive factor in the trio’s approach.
So, what do they sound like? Firstly, certainly not mainstream. To his absolute credit, Morrison left his mainstream credentials at the door and delved into this rather unique version of jazz / rock with glee (complete with yellow framed glasses). Not really what you’d expect from Grabowsky either, although his willingness to take risks was to the fore with the use of a box of electronic tricks and both a keyboard and grand piano, even delving into its interior along with Kram attacking the piano strings with his drumsticks.
With none of them in their comfort zone, they had to stretch and listen to each other, a rock beat over which the jazzers went in directions new. As did Kram, who demonstrated a flexibility not normally associated with drummers of his kind.
On paper this could well have been well, difficult. Happily it was the opposite, the sold out audience were received a rare musical gift from this most unlikely trio.
THE BOY, GEORGE
Holden Street Theatres 5-17 March
BORN TO RULE
What do you do when your birthright is threatened? In danger of being snatched away by a cruel Act of Parliament?
If you are young Prince George, believing in droit de governer, at a time when the Queen has died and the whole of England then rejects the monarchy, and your butler has not brought your crumpets, or come to help you dress, the world becomes a stressful place.
What to do? Young George is nothing if not resourceful, so he devises a strategy, a plan, one which will convince the people of England that not Charles, nor William, but Prince George himself is to rule them; to save them from themselves. This plan involves social media, networks, contacts and branding – a thoroughly modern monarch in the making.
Patrick Livesey presents George as a gay prince, a self absorbed prince, a very amusing prince, even though he would not see himself as anything but quite amazing. It’s a brilliant, witty and clever performance that has the audience totally delighted and engaged.
For an hilarious hour, do beg an audience with Prince George, buy your ticket and hurry along to Holden Street Theatres. before it is too late.
Verbatim Theatre Group
Director Nazanin Sahamizade
AC-Arts- Main Theatre 7-10 March
The play Manus holds up a mirror to the Australian people to show what we and our Government have condoned in the detention centres of Manus and Nauru. It is an ugly image. Confessing a conflict of interest, I have worked as an advocate for asylum seekers and refugees in detention centres in Australia and camps overseas. The stories of the conditions in Manus, as told by the eight Iranian characters, reminded me strongly of the stories I heard about the prison conditions in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
The script was developed through the work of Nazanin Shamazade, who was in very close contact with the Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochari. Although he is still on Manus he recently won the Victorian Premier’s Literature Prize, worth $125,000 for ‘No Friend but the Mountain’. Behrouz, played by an actor, carries the story forward together with seven other refugees, telling in turn the horrors of the sea voyage from Indonesia to Christmas Island, the fact that they were held back from landing, by one day, to ensure that they arrived after the cut off date which means that according to legislation, they would never be settled in Australia. They speak in Farsi, with subtitles in English, but nothing diminishes the passion and conviction as they tell their stories on a bare stage, under the rain that highlights their plight. From time to time video images are projected on their clothing, images of the man who set himself alight, and was covered by a plastic blanket which then clung to his body rather than smothering the flames. We hear messages from Australian politicians, all assuring them that they will never reach Australia. We hear stories of them sleeping on bare concrete, of riots in the camps, of the brutality of the security guards, the hostility of the local people, the deaths from suicide and the children who sew their lips together.
It is a raw, in your face, portrayal of a situation which should not be tolerated. One Iranian woman speaks of having believed that Australia was a country of freedom, tolerance, justice and respect for human rights. She now knows that this is not true, and therefore there is no hope for a better life.
This play has been performed in Iran, India and Bangladesh. Is it really the way we want Australia to be portrayed to the rest of the world?
BIN LADEN THE ONE MAN SHOW
Produced by Knaive Theatre
Holden Street Theatres 5-17 March
ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
Few people in the western world have not heard of Osama Bin Laden, and most might consider him an evil man. Sam Redway and Tyrell Jones became acutely aware of this on viewing the reaction to the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. They set out to investigate what made the man.
The result is a thought provoking piece of theatre, well written by both men and superbly acted by Sam Redway, who opens the show by offering the audience a cup of tea- typical Middle Eastern hospitality, offered with a High Grant accent, and then, after questioning members of the audience about their attitudes to some important issues, sets out to show them how they can change the world; much as Osama Bin Laden attempted, as an idealistic young man, with a wife and child, only to turn to violence and acts of terrorism in the face of implacable enemies.
The portrayal of this man is remarkably objective. Important milestones in his life are shown as much by symbols, such as a gun, or a change of clothing, as with words. We are not asked to concur with his decisions or actions, but a light is shone on to why he may have become one of the most hated and hunted of men. We are asked to think.
There is humour which leavens the serious subject; music which highlights the action, and a style of presentation which engages the audience and encourages reflection. An important part of the show is the discussion afterwards, which is where Tyrell Jones takes a more direct part.
This is theatre of the future, theatre that comes to grips with important aspects of modern life, and which, through the vehicle of strong writing and excellent acting, continues to resonate.
THE ARCHIVE OF EDUCATED HEARTS
Casey Jay Andrews
Holden Street Theatres 12-16 March
Presented byLion House Theatre and Joanne Hearthstone
In an intimate setting the audience is drawn into the stories of four women, all of whom were affected by breast cancer. This may sound rather morbid, but in the hands of the story teller, Casey Jay Andrews, together with family photographs, a voice over quoting from The Educated Heart, (Michael Cochrane) and music composed by George Jennings, the performance is a warm tribute to the courage and compassion of the four women. There is poetry and wisdom in the text, while the setting, like someone’s old aunt’s crowded drawing room, brings a sense of the bonds of family, and stories that belong to so many.
Trio Mediaeval & Arve Henriksen
Superb singing from the trio supplemented with tonal colour from the soft, round, subdued trumpet of jazz musician Arve Henriksen resulted in this special performance.
St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral was the correct setting for this form of early music, or more particularly, folk songs of Norway, Iceland and Sweden; the ambience perfect for vocal music and the cathedral demonstrated surprisingly good acoustics.
The music, drawn largely from their brilliant 2016 ECM album, Rimur, although mostly traditional, has been given a makeover with arrangements by the trio and Henriksen. the result was simply beautiful, the singers harmonies were sumptuous and Henriksen was restrained, although some may say occasionally not quite enough!
One unusual feature was the “interval”, or as was stated, “the Henriksen interval”. The trumpeter coaxed parts of the sell out audience to hum different drones, over which he improvised with is trumpet, finishing the interval with a solo vocal of much beauty. In essence, there was no interval and this reviewer was all the better for that.
To hear this “old” music beautifully sung and blended with trumpet, pocket trumpet and wooden flute was a joy to behold.
Written by George Brant
Directed by Poppy Rowley
Holden Street Theatres 5-16 March
Martha Lott established Holden Street Theatres in 2002 as a place where good theatre could flourish. Trained as an actor, and with years of experience, she hoped to have the opportunity also to act, but administration took over her days and nights. It took a strong play to bring her back to her first love, and her performance in Grounded leaves audiences hoping that she will not leave the stage again.
Grounded is the story of a woman pilot, proud of what she has achieved in what is fundamentally a man’s world. She can hold her own, and then some. Circumstances lead her to become a ‘chair pilot’ sitting in a room controlling a drone electronically, no longer with the joy of flying in the blue sky, above the earth. This change takes its toll with terrible consequences.
One strength of this play is in the tight script, but Martha Lott uses that script to create a powerful and moving story that leaves you feeling as wrung out and demoralised as she is at the end. The ace pilot who strides to the stage, full of confidence, a little arrogant even, is brought down to earth in more ways that one. It is a tour de force. It is also a timely reminder of what modern warfare is doing to humanity.
Un Poyo Rojo
AC Arts Theatre
Dance, gymnastics, workouts, wrestling, comedy, acting, a touch of martial arts and improvisation all come to the fore in this unique and captivating performance. As the audience enters, Alfonso Baron and Luciano Rosso are two men in the locker room warming down but as the show begins the apparently macho men get embroiled in a wordless showing off to each other and in doing so demonstrate an extraordinary physicality, something that will be long remembered.
But it is not just the physical aspect that grabbed attention, it is also the storytelling, comedy with imitation, frankly silly moves and simply amazing facial expressions all combining to a totally unique experience.
Not surprisingly after half the performance the two need a rest and this brings into play the third member of the cast, a radio which is randomly tuned to a station with one or other improvising to whatever comes up. For example, a very close and grossly exaggerated silent mouthing to Nick Kyrgios being interviewed about beating Nadal! It takes real talent and skill to make this work and work it most certainly does. Then there’s the cigarettes…..
As the show progresses the men ramp up their preening and physicality not to mention the rather unsubtle flirting. Luciano Rosso’s solo encore was hysterical!
Unfortunately for those who didn’t book, they have missed out on this exceptional and sold out performance, but for those who have a ticket, a treat awaits.
The Magic Flute
Mozart and Schukander
Komische Oper Berlin
Barry Kosky and 1927
Festival Theatre 1 and 3 March 2019
Last night we saw a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute the like of which we may never experience again. While some may argue as to whether this opera is a simple love story told in a complex way, or a re-creation of myths and legends, with a Masonic twist and a love story as an aside, none of this matters because Mozart’s music is the magic, and all else follows. Bearing that in mind the overture played beautifully by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jordan De Souza, anchored the performance. The wind section was particularly impressive.
Reviewing this production on two levels, musical and stage production, let’s begin with the music. The singers did not disappoint. Kim-Lilian Strebel was particularly impressive as Pamina, and she was well partnered by Aaron Blake as Tamino, especially in their duets. Tamino may have come across as too noble to be true but not so Tome Erik Lie as Papageno. He made the most of this gem of a role, greatly aided by a cartoon black cat – a fitting companion for a Birdcatcher. The Three Ladies, Mirka Wagner, Maria Fiselier and Nadine Weissmann set the mood, with their interplay. No solemn ladies dressed in long robes; they were Berliners from the 30s, complete with cigarette holder and fur collar. Aleksandra Olyczyk had no difficulty singing the florid passages and high staccato passages with agility and a silver sheen to her voice. Without mentioning the cast one by one, there were all of a high calibre, including the Chorus and the Three Boys, although I wished their wings had flapped a little less as they sang.
The stage production was a triumph of ingenuity, skill, quirky humour and imagination. As in the days of silent films the story was advanced by large intertitles on the screen, and the highlighted images of the singers complemented this trope. Continuing the influence these intertitles were often accompanied solely by an 18th-century fortepiano, played by Mark McNeill. The music was from two of Mozart’s fantasias, and they were timed adroitly with the action on stage.
Having the Queen of the Night as a giant spider with agile legs was superb typecasting. Sarasto’s sober suit and top hat had a very different feel to the usual priestly robes. Monstatos (Emil Lawecki) dressed like an undertaker, holding fierce dogs straining at their leashes, was morbidly menacing. Hats off to Esther Bialas who was responsible for costumes and set, and Diego Leetz who designed the lighting. Even more hats off to Paul Barritt for the brilliant animation, especially in the manner in which the singers worked with the animation, no doubt the work also of the dramaturg Ulrich Lenz. Of course even more hats should be removed for the co-directors, Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade.
There may be purists who feel that this unique production does not give enough gravitas to the music of Mozart, and that there is no need for ‘gimmicks’ of any kind to enhance his work. I would say in reply that Mozart, being a man of the theatre would have loved this production of what is essentially an opera for the people. In no way was the music demeaned. It was delightfully brought into a different light through the skill of the production team. Once again the Adelaide Festival has begun with an exciting and innovative opera, a tradition which I hope will continue for many years to come.
Garden Of Unearthly Delights
In many ways this was a very subdued affair, Coughlan accompanied by piano and bass only and a quiet, but reverential, audience. An audience, however, that seemed to know her very well indeed. That’s not a negative as attention was focused on that voice and what a voice it is. Listening to her live in such an intimate setting she, at times, like Lucinda Williams, they share similar, almost slurred, phrasing.
The show was broadly drawn from her extensive back catalogue, including her latest, “Live & Kicking”. What sets her apart from so many vocalists is her ability to span genres with apparent ease, from the blues of Billie Holliday, to jazz and even a version of Joy Division’s “Love will Tear Us Apart” slowed down to within an inch of it’s life. A highlight.
Being a Fringe show the trio had only exactly one hour to deliver the goods, which was a pity as it seemed that both the trio and audience were just getting into their stride when the end arrived, with no encore available due to the next show’s audience waiting outside!!
Nonetheless, a great show and it is plain to see why she is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest vocalists.
Australian String Quartet Concert
Adelaide Town Hall on Thursday February 21
The audience showed its appreciation of this very disciplined, deep thinking and musical quartet by tumultuous applause at the end of the concert. One had the feeling that they were devoted admirers of this Adelaide – based group and it must be gratifying for the Quartet to know they have an appreciative following here. While Sharon Grigoryan is on parental leave, Timo-Veikko Valve from the ACO is guest cellist and he told the audience how he loved being able to play the String Quartet by Sibelius, as it reminded him of his homeland.
The program was diverse and interesting and showcased the ability of this quartet to slip convincingly into different styles and eras. Opening the concert with Haydn’s String Quartet Opus 30 no 3 prepared the audience for surprises as it has some unconventional twists to it. Nicknamed “The Bird” because of various twittering motives, it was written when Haydn was approaching fifty and with many quartets already published. He said himself that this group of six Russian Quartets, of which this is the third, were ‘written in a new and special way’. The Minuet movement is now a Scherzo, the cello is more active as a melodic partner, the themes are more intricately developed and the Trio of the Scherzo has a charming duet for the two violins. All these features were apparent in the delicate and nuanced playing of the Australian String Quartet and the last movement, expertly played at breakneck speed, was a tribute to their virtuosity!
The second work on the program was a clever juxtaposition as it played around with Haydn’s themes which were still in our ears. “Papa Haydn’s Parrot” composed by Helena Winkelman in 2016 is a play on the bird imitations and on the fact that Haydn did own a parrot for twenty years! It is cleverly written and has original sound effects; in the 3rd movement the harmonics in harmony sounded rather like alphorns! There was clattering and scratching and squawking, so it was amusing to listen to. Full marks to the quartet for deciphering the score and presenting it in a comprehensible way.
After the interval, with time to clear our heads, we were plunged into the lush world of Sibelius. He wrote his only String Quartet at the age of forty four and because of his marking in the Adagio Voces Intimae the Quartet has this title. The opening itself is an intimate weaving of voices, a gentle conversation between the violin and cello. There is much octave playing; it was wonderful how the octaves in each instrument would then break into harmony and give the effect of a string orchestra or an organ. It is not in classical quartet style; there are five movements. The quiet opening of the first does turn into an Allegro, but it is the flitting brilliance of the second movement that captures the attention. The third movement, Adagio, is like the first movement, in linear style weaving themes with points of reflection. The cello makes a reluctant exit, taking twenty bars to finally bring the movement to a close! The next movement begins like a Nordic peasant dance, starting off in a heavy ¾ rhythm and progressing through swirling triplets in the second violin and viola til complexity takes over. A hint of the opening ends the movement, then we are rushed into the final Allegro played brilliantly by the Quartet. The unison semiquavers were as one and the contrapuntal entries never faltered; it was breathtaking. It tumbled to an end and the audience erupted! The Quartet certainly deserved the many curtain calls and their faithful followers are sure to return, with friends in tow!
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.
GABRIELI CONSORT & PLAYERS
ELDER HALL 18 and 19 February 2019
State Opera South Australia
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
Dom Polski Centre
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
HOLDEN STREET THEATRES
The Theatres that keep on Giving
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.
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
Adelaide Festival Centre
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.
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
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!
Gala Concert Adelaide Youth Orchestra
Adelaide Town Hall 18 December
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.
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.
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.
GURU OF CHAI
Indian Ink Theatre Company
Space Theatre- OzAsia Festival 25-27 October
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.
Tynte St Baptist Church, North Adelaide
Sunday 21 October 2.30 pm
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.