Shadows of Angels, directed by Iris Walshe-Howling for Anglesea Performing Arts. Anglesea Memorial Hall, April 8, 2021.
If you were ever in doubt why this company named itself ‘Anglesea Performing Arts’ rather than choosing a title including ‘Theatre Company’ - then this production should make it quite clear.
For APA’s Shadows Of Angels was definitely not a play. It contained no dialogue, no scene changes, nor interaction. Nor was it a musical, though it did have haunting melodic passages.
It could have been broadly called ‘performance art’ - but even that definition wasn’t entirely accurate.
For this Shadows Of Angels was essentially adult historic storytelling at its very best.
It was a piece of our community’s shameful history told in a fascinating, intriguing, compelling and ultimately illuminating way.
The storyline, skilfully told in four interwoven monologues by writer Fleur Murphy, uncovered criminal experiences in 1920s Collingwood.
Back then, women were appallingly exploited and the restrictive laws of the time hindered rather than aided their plight.
In the hands of APA’s master director Iris Walshe-Howling, writer Murphy's four monologues became much, much more.
The evening began with the actors assuming their characters, quite literally, in shadow play, by dressing behind backlit screens.
When authentically costumed, they made their way to places on and above the half-lit stage, where each individually told their stories while pinned in a glaring spotlight. When not in that light, the other three remained as a statued presence.
Janine McKenzie's lighting design and Kirstin Honey's haunting soundtrack both enhanced and highlighted the onstage performers.
First of these was APA newcomer Joanna Lusty, who set the scene by telling her story of a visit to a secret backstreet location - but her narrative, delivered with clarity and precision, revealed the first of many twists.
Then Lina Libroaperto told her older female resident’s perspective, movingly explained from a lofty stage position high above the others.
You’ll realise by now that I’m not going to reveal the storyline, because this production calls for its audience to piece it together from linked and intertwining references in its players' monologues.
So to the disturbing male perspective delivered in clipped, polite and flat tones by Fred Preston, before Stacey Carmichael brought the small, tragic and sordid saga to an emotive conclusion with her touching, poignant performance.
In all, this all took just 75 minutes of absorbing drama.
Its four individual narrations were beautifully structured and masterfully delivered.
They made, as a whole, a piece of exquisite art.
I thoroughly recommend that you see Shadows Of Angels.
You will be mightily impressed, moved - and in awe of the performer's arts.
- Colin Mockett
Before the Beach Boys and the Beatles, before Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, Tina Turner and the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Doors, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Elton John, Billy Joel, Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, Michael Jackson, ABBA, Bruce Springsteen, Queen, the Police, Prince, Madonna, Nirvana and so many other great acts over the past seventy years, there was... the King himself, according to Wikipedia (to which I would whole-heartedly agree) one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, ELVIS.
Presenting his musical biography yesterday 6 April at Drysdale's Potato Shed was local entertainer and presenter Colin Mockett through his Drop of a Hat Productions, with music performed by All Shook Up! By the end of this morning's show, I was well and truly all shook up indeed, like somehow I'd become a passenger on a time-travelling DeLorean in the 80s classic "Back to the Future" and bore witness myself to Elvis and his band playing live. This happened, folks, every time I closed my eyes, and during the intermission when we all wandered out into the foyer to get our coffee/tea I spoke with another audience member who was sitting somewhere beside me and told them to try doing the same thing as well, because it was... the word that frequently comes to mind here is... transportive!
The band consisted of Allan James on lead vocals and guitar, Trevor Harrison on stand-up drums and backing vocals, his son Tom on guitar and vocals, Hergy Hergstrom alternating between saxophone and harmonica, Tamara Andrews on percussion and backing vocals, and of course Colin providing his extensive and immersive commentary all throughout.
The Elvis journey began with (fittingly) "All Shook Up", the moment I started to realize that the years and the decades were beginning to peel away to a time where my parents would have only just been born. What followed was eighteen classic numbers, all of which I will touch on here, as much as I can within the time constraints of this review.
After "All Shook Up", with Allan and Tamara on lead vocals and the band playing as hauntingly as they ever did that day, came "That's All Right Mama" from Elvis's years at the Sun Recording Studios, which saw Hergy playing harmonica before he switched to the saxophone on "Heartbreak Hotel". Both these sounds complimented the band and the singers brilliantly. "Hound Dog" followed with Hergy's sax, and "Love me Tender" before Colin turned to the audience revealing that this was Tom's first time performing with the group which I would never have guessed if I'd seen this show seven times.
Following was "Don't be Cruel", "A Fool Such as I" and "Viva Las Vegas", all dexterously performed by Allan James and the group, before finally the clever little punchline at the end of the first set: "Before you leave for the 20 minute interval, be careful you don't step on my blue suede shoes." Humorous moments like these, and Allan's line "Take my wife and mortgage too" during "Can't Help Falling in Love" in the second set, were the cherry on the cake for this experience for me. If I'd closed my eyes at that point, it would have been the 1960s with Elvis cracking jokes onstage, something I regret not doing, because it would have been wilder than ever before.
The second set followed with more evergreens such as "Jailhouse Rock" and "Wooden Heart" with Hergy switching once again to harmonica and Allan warning the crowd his German might not be very good. I have no idea if it was or it wasn't. It just sounded good.
Next came "Can't Help Falling in Love" which I mentioned earlier, with Allan and Tamara on vocals, and then "Are you Lonesome Tonight?" that eternal classic from the Elvis 1968 comeback special. Another one the band hit out of the park, in counterpoint with Colin's commentary that frequently left me in awe. Listen and learn, Ryan, because you didn't know half of this stuff about music before.
Before "It's now or never" was played, I never realized all of the times I'd heard that song that it was actually the same music as "O sole mio", which made this probably my favourite little fact from Colin throughout this concert. That was his Elvis moment where it actually made the crowd in me go wild?
What followed I knew was going to be challenging for everyone on board. I would have been terrified if it were me, because "Suspicious Minds" is simply one of the greatest songs to have existed. Having treasured it all of these years, I was afraid this was really going to test the group for me, who had a steep mountain climb ahead of them, (and imagine trying to climb a mountain while you're lugging all that equipment about. Yeah, you're thinking, this is bonkers.) You did great, guys, you did great.
The show wound towards its conclusion with "Crying in the Chapel", with more humour from Allan and his sidekick Tamara, "Burning Love" which is another favourite of mine and I found myself humming it practically all the way home, and finally the towering "American Trilogy". I was genuinely afraid for Allan when he walked off the stage towards the end part of the song, thinking he must have flipped out from the pressure of it all, when finally, along with many gasps of surprise (and relief in my case), he returned to the stage in golden Elvis coat. Yes! And this is the part where all of the fans would have started screaming! I came to see an Elvis performance. The ending left me feeling like I was watching an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, with a stunning twist right towards the end, and this is after I've gone back through time before that. Well, well done!
At the end of the show, I was left thinking two things. One: more young people need to be listening to this music. I'm sure a lot of them are, but more of them need to hear it. Or perhaps we need another remix like the 2001 JXL version of "A Little Less Conversation" to encourage them. Two: the program mentioned that venue manager Rob had come up with the idea of performing an Elvis show. I have an idea myself, to see Allan and the group narrated by Colin performing Roy Orbison. I would go just to hear "You got it".
Thank you very much,
It would have been a very long time since a local production played as the principal feature in Village cinema’s largest space - let alone an eight-minute dance film.
But this memory house was no ordinary film and its journey to this point had been unusual to say the least.
It’s creator and choreographer, Lindel Quick, and her Blink Dance Company were handed the inaugural ‘Creative Engine' grant by our revamped and re-focussed Geelong Arts Centre (formerly GPAC) back in 2019.
At that time the project, which was funded by the Centre plus the City council’s Arts department, was to expand one of Lindel’s existing ideas. This was to use dance as a medium to illustrate the physicality of memory.
The concept would trace one woman’s memories, using Jungian concepts of the creation of self.
As Lindel explained in a short speech before the film was shown, memory house was originally aimed to be a large production staged in one of the Arts Centre’s main theatres.
But then Covid arrived, with its 2020 lockdowns and restrictions first putting the project in jeopardy, then turning it completely around.
Those restrictions made it impossible to rehearse large dance numbers and besides, all our theatres were indefinitely closed.
But reducing the concept to that of a short film meant that rehearsals could go ahead with a small number of performers - and the film’s distribution and public performance options would become much more flexible.
So a new Covid-revised memory house was conceived with just six performers; Sarah Hall's central character with Elise Wilkinson, Thaedra Frangos, Jules Hart, Jess Lesosky and Sophia Reinking her Greek chorus of movement-based memories.
Each were dressed in filmy, flowing fabrics with costumes designed by local Ana Fernanda Covarrubias, and their dance actions were filmed by director Annica Glac and her cinematographer husband, Marcus Struzina.
And somewhere along that reduction process, magic occurred.
Because this memory house turned out to be much less of a dance film and more a journey into pure art.
There were long moments during those short eight minutes when no dance occurred at all.
Instead there were minuscule movements, confidential interactions, and intense emotions depicted with such exquisite sensitivity to reveal the character’s intimate thoughts and feelings.
Josh Mitchell sympathetic, dreamy and unobtrusive musical score and Luis Cervera's neat house-shaped set boxes complimented and completed this beautifully - constructed film portrait.
The cinematic secrets were revealed in a companion film that was shown immediately after memory house.
This documentary, titled Inside A Room was created by another filmmaker, Eric Dittloff. His piece showed Marcus Struzina’s camera moving alongside and around the memory house dancers, with director Annica Glac nearby and all working to capture those close-up intimacies.
Ironically, at ten minutes, the film-about-a-film took two minutes longer than its subject.
But it made an excellent companion for what was a unique event, an unusual collaboration - and an absorbing, memorable piece of collective art.
- Colin Mockett
This was the first concert since the Covid lockdown for Geelong’s premier orchestra, it’s audience and venue, and the ongoing restrictions led to a tentative start.
The foyer felt strange with people attempting to self-distance around odd bottlenecks at registration and entry points.
Once inside the auditorium, orchestra members self-consciously peeled off and stowed facemarks as they took their places, tuned, then patiently waited while their audience arrived slower than usual, due to those foyer controls.
The Costa, newly renovated during 2020 lockdown, showed elements of understated swank with refurbished seats and a subtle repaint from a quiet, toned-down palette. Even the orchestra’s seating was pristine and new.
The restrictions meant that the venue was opened fully, while perhaps ⅔ full, with every audience member dutifully masked.
Following that initial five-minute delay came a formal side-of-stage Covid announcement from GSO board member Jon Mamonski, who listed mask and exit instructions - and all this added to the anticipation as well as the occasion’s faintly unfamiliar feel.
So when conductor Richard Davis took the stage - to warmer than usual applause - he began with a short impromptu speech thanking the audience for being there, explaining just how important it was for musicians to play in a live audience setting.
Then he turned, faced his orchestra, and together they validated his words by presenting a concert of musical beauty and sheer mastery.
The choice of all-Mozart for this comeback concert was absolutely fitting.
The opening overture from The Marriage of Figaro was perfect, with its familiar themes and flawless execution setting a high standard for what was to come.
And those expectations were met - then exceeded.
For next came Mozart’s flute concerto in D major with orchestra and guest soloist Derek Jones delivering the work’s four movements with verve, vitality - and a level of professional skill that denied their long lay-off.
This piece’s delicate and various musical patterns, built around flowing romantic movements with sparkling highlights and twinkling humorous spells were perfectly presented by our orchestra, while its conductor and soloist displayed their different personas.
Flautist Derek is no showman. His conservative-suited appearance and unassuming restrained style contrasted with conductor Richard’s tail-suited flamboyance, which flowed seamlessly from stiff formal pointing to a form of rooted crouch while grasping handfuls of air - gesturing a mute plead to his players.
The result of this visually delightful combination was, well, wonderful. A beautifully delivered rendition of a glorious work, with an additional bonus - that neat visual contradiction.
But then, after a short reshuffle of chairs came the concert’s major work, Mozart’s Symphony No 41, Jupiter suite, which is a musically challenging piece, being the composer’s longest and final symphony. But it is wonderfully gratifying to the listener with soaring crescendos, contrasting motifs, musical patterns and closing fanfares. Geelong’s GSO delivered it with its now-familiar skilled, professional ease to warm, sustained applause with conductor Davis returning again and again to encourage different sections to take their individual acclaim.
In all, this was a concert of elegant splendour and one deserving a full house - as I’m sure the orchestra will gain when the circumstances return.
Bravo, orchestra - and welcome back!
- Colin Mockett
The Geelong Symphony Orchestra will present Vienna - City of Dreams in the Costa Hall Saturday August 7. It’s recommended to book early.