They watch. They lurk and lean and linger in doorways. We watch the men. And we watch ourselves watching. In KING OF PIGS there is a mirror at eye level to the audience and we see our watching selves reflected. Somewhat frozen by the confrontation of self-perception, our right to silence is invoked by the setting, yet we are implicated in the events. It’s a stunning metaphor in a play of reach and power which exhorts us to bear witness and be better. To confront our understandings and analyse our responses and speak of these hidden, skulking things.
We meet a woman, we meet 4 men. There are narratives around the men, all involving a woman, not one woman but, yet, the same woman. The men speak of past events. She speaks in the past tense of injury and love and violence and desire. The 4 stories will interweave to create a multilayered exploration of male violence, overt and covert. There is a mystery in the stories, what has happened and how did this woman get here. Continue reading KING OF PIGS: TIME TO CONSIDER→
In this latest performance, called INTIMATE LETTERS, the ACO combined with the Bell Shakespeare Company have somewhat abandoned the usual established concert format. Under the direction of special guest London Symphony Orchestra concert master Gordan Nikolic and theatre directors Peter Evans and Susanna Dowling , INTIMATE LETTERS is a unique blend of theatre and music.
Actors Ella Scott Lynch and Marshall Napier from Bell Shakespeare read excerpts from the letters of Janáček, Mozart and Smetana linked to the ACO’s performance of the related musical works of the three composers .
Mozart’s ‘Divertimento in F’, the first work on the program, was perhaps slightly out of place in when considered alongside the later anguished works of the two Czech composers that follow.
The sunny ‘ Divertimento ‘ one of three composed by the sixteen-year-old Mozart in 1772, is a brief, charming Italianate piece in three sprightly movements. The second, middle movement is the saddest and most lyrical in feel.
The first letter of the evening was a 1772 letter written by a young Mozart to his sister, Maria Anna. Ella Scott Lynch , in a beautiful, long blue flowing tie dyed dress, obtained some laughter from the crowd before the ACO started performing with her delicious reading of the composer’s goofy, rather oddball remarks and use of repetition. The exquisite tone of the ACO’s playing was showcased particularly in the second Adante movement and their playing in the first movement was glorious with sustained, precise balance.
The other two works performed were in starks contrast .
Entitled ‘Z mého života’, or ‘From my Life’, Smetana planned his work to be a snapshot of his life, starting from his youth and his initial interest in the arts to his permanent deafness, with which he was diagnosed at the age of 50.
The piece was deemed ‘too orchestral’ for a quartet, and Smetana’s work was given its first performance by a larger body of strings (including, notably, a young viola player named Antonin Dvořák), which, sadly, he was completely unable to hear.
The first movement begins explosively, subsiding to an eerie theme in the viola section. Smetana entitled this the “Call of Destiny” theme, a ominous foretelling of his future misfortunes. Having lost his hearing, Smetana was still bothered by constant buzzing, shriekings and high-pitched whistles, which he found so disturbing that they often hindered him from composing.
The first movement was powerful and passionate, evoking Smetana’s interest in Romanticism and its ideals. The second movement was brighter, and shows Smetana’s love of dance and the pride he took in his achievements as a composer.
The second movement was played with great control by the ACO giving it a sense of proud Slavic nationalism instead of joy, which is appropriate for the work.
In the third movement, Nikolic and the first violins were glorious in haunting,sad violin swells of interlocking rhythms and layers of melody.
There were soaring tears of solo sections, and the group took full advantage of the rich, luscious harmonies. The fourth (final) movement begins happily ,but is interrupted by the occurrence of a high ‘E ‘over a tumultuous body of strings, which represents Smetana’s deafness, and the A-flat Major 6th chord he reported hearing daily between the hours of 6 and 7.
As the movement drew to a close, the phrases end more abruptly, indicating the disintegration of Smetana’s hearing. Napier, dapper in an elegant grey business suit gave exquisitely eloquent readings of Smetana’s letters, and at one point says ‘ Therefore the ‘E’ must be played fortissimo throughout’ and emphatically directs the ACO to do just that . There is also use of atmospheric golden lighting .
Principal cellist Timo-Veikko Valve has been responsible for arranging Leon Janáček’s ‘ String Quartet No 2 ‘– known also as the ‘Intimate Letters ‘- the title piece- for string orchestra. Janáček wrote these letters over the last decade of his life to Kamila Stösslová, a young woman he was passionately devoted to.
Janáček and Kamila exchanged over 700 letters, in which she was rather primly aloof, and he was clearly smitten. Their correspondence created extra tension between Janáček and his already estranged wife Zdenka, but didn’t appear to concern Kamila’s husband, who was probably consoled by the age gap between the two of nearly 40 years (when they first met Kamila was 25, Janáček was 63). The actors draw out the crackling tension in magnificent performances.
The work begins spikily but there are swirling, lilting tender sections too, Some segments are to be played on the bridge in the viola and cello parts. Principal viola Christopher Moore’s superb performing deserves a particular mention. Sometimes the music is achingly sad, at other times tremulous, spiky or searing .There was fine, vibrant playing by the ACO and all involved gave an impassioned performance .
An unusual , emotionally gripping and exciting performance . Running time two hours (approx) with one interval.
INTIMATE LETTERS was on national tour between the 18th August to the 2nd September.
Award winning playwright Toby Schmitz has joined forces with director Leland Kean to present his latest play EMPIRE: TERROR ON THE HIGH SEAS for the Tamarama Rock Surfers Theatre Company.
Schmitz and Kean set themselves the challenge of writing a post –colonial play that wasn’t set in Australia. The story is set in 1925 aboard a luxury ocean liner, the Empress of Australia, on its way to New York. We find a colourful array of characters from Britain’s once great Empire; the vicar – Reverend Daglish, Mr Frey – a misplaced Australian Dadaist, an Australian Anzac, bombastic South African fighter pilot Tony Hertz-Hollingsworth and his flamboyant wife Nicole, the charming ex Eton/Cambridge man of leisure – Dick Cavendish, French couple Dr and Madame Foveaux, Chicago bag-man – Bang Reiby and cabaret singer Poppy Mitchell, amongst others.
It soon becomes clear that there is a serial killer on board and Inspector Archie Daniels suspects that the culprit is from the eccentric first class of the ship. We are aware by the second act of who the killer is and the murders become more and more macabre. There are some very clever scenes, including the cabaret songs by Poppy, sung beautifully by Billie Rose Prichard and the private cabin party, played with great exuberance by Ella Scott Lynch as party girl Nicole. Also invigorating is the wit and wisdom of Cavendish, played with great humour by Nathan Lovejoy. Anthony Gee as Mr Hertz-Hollingsworth was funny, but a little out of place with his aggressive and somewhat inconsistent South African accent.
The cast are all competent actors who seem to be struggling to make this cabaret farce into a drama. There is a lack of communication between characters, to the point where there is little sympathy when they are murdered.
The idea behind the play is great and the characters imaginative, but the dialogue is over intellectual at times and lacking in depth in terms of relationships. Perhaps Schmitz has taken on too complex a story to be credible on stage. There is great potential and brilliant humour and nuance nevertheless. If the characters connected more, the audience could be more involved on an emotional level. Kean has, however, brought out some fantastic characterisations amongst this strong cast of actors.
The production is very slick. The set design by James Browne is very 1920s and has that shipboard transitional appeal. The lighting and sound design by Luiz Pampolha and Jed Silver are extremely atmospheric and the costumes superb.
EMPIRE: TERROR ON THE HIGH SEAS plays the Bondi Pavilion from August 28 and September 28, 2013.
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