[THEATRE/Music/Caberet ~ AUS]
Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, Thu 15 Jul, 2021.
The Bridge Of San Luis Rey is a joint venture by State Theatre Company, Brink Productions and The Adelaide Guitar Festival. Based on Thornton Wilder’s 1927 novel about a bridge disaster in 18th Century Peru, playwright Phillip Kavanagh and director Chris Drummond have transformed a multi-character novel into a show for two guitarists and one actor. Vying away from a simple re-enactment of the novel this production injects elements of farce, humour, and cabaret sensibilities into an otherwise rather Gothic plot.
Paul Capsis (who recently won this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival Icon award) bravely takes on the central acting role. With a commanding stage presence he embodies a flamboyant Peruvian actress as she relates the back stories of the five people who plunge from the bridge to their deaths. As their tales unfold we begin to see connections between them all. As storyteller Capsis takes on the voices of some of these characters, but the switch from one character to another is at times a little hard to differentiate, as they take on similarly exaggerated comic traits. Using a book as a prop to read many of his lines is also rather distracting at times.
Capsis shines brightest and most comfortably when singing, and it is here that his mastery of the cabaret art form is most evident. His rendition of Ute Lemper’s Oblivion is wonderful. His portrayal of the old actress in her dressing room is also cabaret gold.
Slava Grigoryan and Manus Noble’s playing is sublime and central to the success of this play. Their dexterous guitar work is a salve and a bedrock to the whole performance, infusing lament and pathos and building tension as the tale unfolds. Referencing Inca folk tunes and Spanish guitar pieces from the 18th Century adds Latin American context, but their playing behind contemporary pieces such as Sia’s Chandelier is equally as precise and compelling.
Gavin Morris’s moody lighting enhances the atmosphere and his use of shadow silhouettes is an effecting touch. So too is Jonathan Oxland’s simple set design and the costuming which helps centre the performance in 18th Century Peru without being too laboured.
This new rendition retains the themes explored in Wilder’s novel about fate, love, and the fragility of life. While it might seem unusual to include such a text heavy performance in a guitar festival, the guitars in this instance are not a mere backdrop to the action but hold equal billing to the action, and make this a rather interesting addition to this year’s Adelaide Guitar Festival program.
The Bridge Of San Luis Rey continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 7.30pm until Sat 24 Jul.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.