Thebarton Theatre, Sat Sep 19
Ask any veteran and they will tell you that mere words can neither represent nor describe the Vietnam War experience to those watching from their living rooms at home. It was the music of the time that defined this generation of soldiers both to themselves and to our modern understanding of their history. In Rolling Thunder Vietnam: Songs That Defined A Generation, the stories of these veterans are explored through the music that became unofficial ‘anthems’ to soldiers dealing with conscription, jungle war, love, loss and a less than triumphant return home.
Through the stories of two Australian soldiers played superbly by Wes Carr and Tom Oliver and an American Marine (a brilliant Matthew Pearce), Director David Berthold has created a tough yet touching homage to some of the most powerful music produced during that era. Carr (of Australian Idol fame) certainly looked the part and though clearly not an actor, was in fine form vocally. Oliver (The Voice Australia) was perhaps better at embodying his character, a young Aussie in a strange land missing his sweetheart (an amazing performance by newcomer Kimberley Hodgson) and dreaming only of returning home in one piece.
NIDA graduate Pearce was especially strong both in role and voice however it was Hodgson who impressed the most. In representing loved ones at home, she symbolised the sweet naivety and longing of those left behind, particularly in her heartfelt rendition of Killing Me Softly. Backup vocals by Vanessa Krummenacher and Will Ewing were also well performed.
And of course, it really is all about the music – the audience absolutely loving every moment of songs such as All Along The Watchtower, Nowhere To Run, What’s Going On and Paint It Black. The biggest responses were reserved for Most People I Know (Think That I’m Crazy) and We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place. A quick look around the theatre at the foot stomping, fist pumping patrons – most of whom likely having experienced the era firsthand – and you know this is a concert drama that needed to be done.
Musical Director Chong Lim (think The John Farnham Band and Dancing With The Stars) led a band of highly accomplished musicians, the likes of Stuart Fraser and Brett Garsed absolutely burning the stage with superior guitar work.
Visually creative, lighting and set design included four panels containing actual and animated footage by AV designer Toby Harding that was bold, confronting and complemented rather than competed with the music itself.
The foot stomping and fist pumping continued beyond the final call, the audience keen to thank performers and musicians alike for creating and sharing what was an obviously emotional experience for many. What a wonderful compliment to all involved.
by Rosie van Heerde