OPERA - AUSTRALIAN COMPOSITIONS - EUREKA
Australian musical theatre has struck another rich load in opening
Melbourne’s International Arts Festival.
With never a
dull moment and leaving not a dry eye in the house, the creative team of
Gale Edwards (director/writer), Maggie May Gordon (concept/lyricist) and
Michael Maurice Harvey (composer) has excelled at making personal
entanglements carry broader issues without trivialising either.
At the heart
of their storybook is the difficult love between the Irish emigrants,
Bridie O’Malley, carried off with dash and delicacy by Trisha Crowe,
and Sean Flynn, played by Simon Gleeson with a lyric tenor as refined as
Sean’s courting is clumsy.
found her grandfather, Paddy, a role in which Barry Crocker triumphs
over the clichéd stage Irishman as good natured drunk. Only his murder
stopped his stealing the show.
on the Ballarat field is the gentleman engineer, Peter Lalor, whose
place in history underwrote top billing for Ian Stenlake, whose
steadfastness wins back his schoolm’m fiancee, graced by Rachel Beck.
The leads are
buoyed by a cast with more stars than the Southern Cross. Eureka!
is ensemble at its peak, with every gesture of each chorus member
choreographed to vary the pace. The spectacle is energised by dance
rhythms and ennobled by pathos in Michael Harvey’s music.
Cormick as Goldfields Commissioner Grey brings a moral masochism and
physical sadism to his ensnaring of Bridie. Peter Carroll as Governor
Hotham seems destined to mimic Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General
Stanley until he too has his dark night of the soul. As his lady wife,
Nancye Hayes is more a dipso Dame of the Panto than of the Empire on
which her ball gown never sets.
Aboriginal woman Kardinia (Pauline Whyman) is allowed to preach in Act
One, an embarrassment dissolved once her commentary is integrated into
anti-Chinese feeling on the diggings is confronted and overcome only in
isolated friendships, made the more convincing because of the wit of the
Beijing actor, Lang Li as Long Tu.
The chorus of
“It’s what women do”, which accompanies the sewing of the Eureka
flag, offers a liberationist anthem. Its segue from whores to housewives
is but one instance of the strength of women throughout the show,
flaunted by Amanda Muggleton.
This is a
“Eureka” for our times, wearing its black armband with dignity,
never despair, pointing through how we once were to what we might make