[AUSTRALIA ~ WORLD PREMIERE]
Dunstan Playhouse, Wed 20 Jun.
The Slingsby Theatre Company have bitten off a great deal here. Set to the original music of Cameron Goodall and Quincy Grant this is nothing less than a history of the natural universe in a mere one hour. A more deliberate than usual pre-show Welcome To Country, and a reminder that it was World Refugee Day were pointed clues as to what they wanted their take home message to be.
Front man Goodall introduces us to the story before an almost physical aural assault launched the musical fare – and a remote island at the end of time is born. Over time, various creatures arrive and flourish in the beauty of their island home before humans arrive and do what humans do. Each subsequent arrival (a seed of grass, a beetle, an albatross…) is given their own soundtrack to announce their arrival and tell their part of the story. It’s a simple and effective technique that serves to break the show up into easily digested chunks.
Delightfully naïve projected imagery bounces and bobs behind the stage to help explain things when lyrics are hard to hear, as is often the case with rock music; the louder it gets the harder it is for the words to be deciphered, and as good as singers as Goodall and Leah Flanagan are, the mix was not always kind to the vocals.
But there were two superb vocal duets between Goodall and Flanagan: a song about ancient turtles and their inherited memory featured exquisite harmonies, and the seven petals song is beautifully crafted.
Billed as prog-rock, the show features many musical styles – folk, bluegrass, waltz, a little rap and good old hard rock. And the multi-instrumentalist band handles them all with ease. Multiple guitars, clarinet, saxophone, keyboards, ukuleles are all shared around, with only Satomi Ohnishi staying in the one place on percussion.
The real target audience for this show are children – teachers, students and parents could mine much material from this show for discussion and community action, but does it work as a night time cabaret show for grown-ups? At least half of the audience were on their feet at show’s end making it very clear their answer was a resounding yes.
It would be very easy to be cynical about this show and the scope of its purview, but I found myself being drawn in to this paean to nature by the strength of the songs. Humanity continues its reluctance to change its ways and give nature and the planet a fighting chance so perhaps we simply need to hear this message over and over. And Songs For Those Who’ve Come Across The Seas is an entertaining and uplifting means of getting it.
Songs For Those Who’ve Come Across The Seas continues at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 9pm until Thu 21 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.