Dunstan Playhouse, Tue 21 Jun
Labyrinth (1986) – Introduced by Sven Ratzke formed the third and final instalment in Adelaide Cabaret Festival Movie Nights. This provided dual opportunity for a 30th anniversary screening of Labyrinth and for Sven Ratzke to discuss his show, Starman, in conversation with Trevor Jones.
Ratzke was introduced to the audience as an international citizen living between Amsterdam and Berlin, having arrived in Adelaide fresh from Perth. When asked to pick his favourite, Ratzke won the crowd by predictably, yet demurely indicating Adelaide.
From this point the conversation turned to its true purpose of discussing Ratzke’s work. Starman’s inception began six to seven years ago, growing from a collection of old notes Ratzke referred to having “put in the fridge”. It was at this point a dog’s bark interrupted proceedings, startling the audience, which Ratzke referred to as “too dangerous for this movie”. It was later revealed to be an assistance dog in training in the audience but was the first of several opportunities Ratzke took to deviate from script and connect with his audience.
Development of Starman began in earnest in 2014 with the international premier in Berlin, October 2015. Ratzke is very clear that Starman is not a tribute show and he is not trying to be David Bowie; rather it is a story of fantasy interwoven with facts from David Bowie’s life and fantasy of Ratzke’s own. Starman is a reinterpretation arrived at through collaboration with musical director Charly Zastrau and jazz musicians which sees Heroes become a soft ballad and Fame include strange laughter and a clapping beat. Ratzke likened the process to reading a book and reinterpreting it to make it new.
From this point the conversation turned to first memories of David Bowie. Jones recalls a chance, late night television viewing of Ziggy Stardust as a young child that left him both terrified and awestruck. Ratzke revealed his hippie-style upbringing where listening to Bob Marley and other reggae dominated his musical landscape. It was against this setting a family friend first introduced him to David Bowie. The pieces of the David Bowie puzzle came later. Ratzke refutes others claims that the lyrics of David Bowie are a mystery. Instead, Ratzke sees them as deeply personal, expressing Bowie’s fears and dreams through layers in lyrics. A revelation that may have shocked audience members, Ratzke admitted that he had never been a major fan of David Bowie’s, rather he was impressed by his ability to take risks. This was particularly poignant as a precursor to Labyrinth.
Black Star was released mere days before prior to David Bowie’s death. Ratzke was touring Starman heavily at the time and began receiving constant calls following his death for interviews as though he was an expert or relative which did not sit comfortably with Ratzke. He also did not have time to deal with Bowie’s death himself. A day later he had the surreal experience of performing Heroes on a television show to a crying audience. Ratzke believes there may very well be a story in the stars for everyone, one for Bowie, another for Lou Reed and so on. David Bowie will never sing again.
Ratzke was eight or nine years old when he first viewed Labyrinth and terrified from when the window first opened. As he began to discuss the film script an audience member called out “don’t spoil it!” which was met with raucous laughter. A quick poll revealed the overwhelming majority of the audience were not first time viewers of the iconic coming of age film.
The conversation concluded with Trevor Jones asking the classic question of which incarnation of Bowie would Ratzke most like to have dinner with – Ziggy Stardust,the Thin White Duke – empathetically answered with ‘David Bowie’ the risk taking creator.
Sven Ratzke performs Starman at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 7.30pm until Sat 25 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
Image courtesy of Denis Veldman
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