Dunstan Playhouse, Sat 18 Jun
You can’t ask for much more than a work performed in its entirety with dedication and style by formidable artists, and that’s exactly what was delivered as Zephyr Quartet and a quartet of vocalists breathed new life into Elvis Costello and Brodsky Quartet’s 1993 meditation on the art of letter writing, The Juliet Letters.
Musically, the main difference was the use of piano accompaniment, courtesy of Musical Director Carol Young, providing a welcome deviation from the original, and subtly distinguishing this effort from mere imitation into more of an interpretation. Still, Zephyr Quartet’s performance was central to the effort and impressed in its cohesion with the piano and the vocalists.
About those vocalists: with the weight of the performance on them, they responded with grace and skill, each handling their vocal duties with seeming ease while executing understated stage work in the form of letter-related gestures from writing, to reading, crumpling, burning, and later, even folding the letters into paper airplanes.
First up was Michaela Burger for a sparsely accompanied reading of For Other Eyes, her voice strong as she passionately embodied the tale of a love betrayed. Next was Jamie Jewell, bringing appropriate bile to hate letter Swine, followed by Cameron Goodall’s captivating reading of Expert Rites. Rounding out the vocal cast was Jude Henshall, hamming it up deliciously for I Almost Had A Weakness.
The performance was too consistent to call out highlights, but the central trifecta of Burger’s rousing Taking My Life In Your Hands, the ensemble rendition of faustian ode This Offer Is Unrepeatable (which had the entire cast waving their arms about wildly in their salesmanship glee), and Jamie Jewell’s touching take on suicide note Dear Sweet Filthy World exemplified the strengths of the production.
Credit is due to the creative team behind the show, including Director David Mealor, Designer Kathryn Sproul, and Lighting and AV Designer Chris Petredis, who collectively split the difference between dramatising the performance and spotlighting the musical work, with song titles projected in varying fonts while the cast moved about the minimally adorned stage, the varying acts of restraint conspiring to keep the music front and centre.
Throughout, Zephyr Quartet were perfection, content to support the cast while still asserting themselves as the musical backbone of the production. As the lights came up following closer The Birds Will Still Be Singing, the audience applauded enthusiastically, bringing the cast and quartet back for a second round of bows, praise well-deserved for a thoughtfully-conceived and skilfully-executed performance.
Image courtesy of Heath Bri
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