PERFORMANCE - SYDNEY FESTIVAL 2004
and magic dominated the third and final week of Sydney Festival 03,
prominently in The Passion of Joan of Arc the
1928 film by the Danish director Carl Dreyer. The
Australian Chamber Orchestra accompanied with Richard Einhorn’s 1994
score – “Voices of Light” - the mock medievalism of which never
distracted from the drama of the faces. The screen becomes a gallery
where all the portraits are by Cranach. The expressiveness of Dreyer’s
non-talking heads is fuel for the prejudices of those among us who still
resent talkies for subverting the eloquence of the visual.
National Theatre of Colombia performed an adaptation of the novel, Chronicle
of a Death Foretold, by their compatriot, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
His magic realism has so raised our expectations of what is to be
expected that the stage set of a bull ring for the slaying of a seducer
looked less than dramatic than it was in showing how it takes a whole
village to commit a murder. The company, however, filled the arena with
their energy, songs, delicacy and delineation of complicity, cowardice
the appearance of the Brisbane band george with the Sydney Symphony
Orchestra achieved very little aural integration, nothing could inhibit
the enthusiasm of their fans. When accompanying this quintet, the
orchestra provided the murmur of a distant surf. Throughout, the
electronic five had more trouble adjusting their levels to the acoustic
in the Opera House Concert Hall than they had had in the Adelaide beer
garden where I first enjoyed them three years ago. The centrepiece was
Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra, premiered by the band
Deep Purple in 1969.
The composition has the three-movement structure but little of
the thematic development of a classical form. Crescendos filled in for
climaxes. Instead, we were assaulted with the melange that radio quizzes
use to test how many scores from Spaghetti Westerns a contestant can
identify. Lord’s keyboard solo and that of percussionist Geoff Green
were so superior to the rest of the noise that three- movement sonatas
from each of them would have been more thrilling than this wannabe
from France attracted hordes of knee-nibblers on the promise of a
circus. Their material is sophisticated, indeed erotic, in debt to Dali
and Freud for a depiction of how dreams allow us to realise the delights
that our bodies deny us. The kids sat transfixed by the sight of human
beings performing feats that their age group identifies with animation.
We wrinklies laughed at different things but were no less spellbound.
began as a book of interviews and was made into a documentary film
before Leah Purcell helped to adapt the life stories for the stage. The
production escaped the tedium of overlapping monologues by using the
power of a women’s sacred site to attract five strangers to a shared
space. Once there, the performers sustained a level of ensemble that
made their characters appear as aspects of an archetypical Aboriginal
woman without surrendering a skerrick of their individuality.
cannot resolve social problems but it can trace their fault lines. If
the debate within both the black and the white communities, and between
them, were as frank as the talk among the black chicks in the first
half, we would be much further down the track to reconciliation, both
practical and symbolic. After interval, the Dreaming proved more potent
as a theatrical device than as an answer to the fractured lives that it
had drawn together. Having set out the dilemmas, the script veered
towards saying that passing as white could be as much an Aboriginal
“way” as steeping oneself in the beliefs of the “old people”.
The stonier path ahead is to interrogate the myths being invented by
people passing as black.
directing his second Sydney Festival, Brett Sheehy offered a feast to
match the diversity of tastes and talents in this second-tier global
city. Some of the finest was for free. The Samuel Beckett segment
stimulated scholarly and popular debate, as well as a tight and tough
production of Endgame. Festival funds contributed to several new
Australian pieces. Audiences were introduced to overseas companies.
Sheehy has set himself a standard to vault over next year.