Daffodils (Bullet Heart Club)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre
May 18 – 22
“Daffodils” tells a story ‘inspired’ by that of New Zealand playwright Rochelle Bright’s own parents, the motif of which becomes apparent early in the show. It is 1964 when New Zealanders 18 year old Eric (Todd Emerson) and 16 year old Rose (Colleen Davis) meet at a lake by the daffodils, the same place where Eric’s parents met two decades earlier. They fall in love, marry and live through highs and lows to a soundtrack of New Zealand music soon turned into memory, as is the case of life.
The first half of the show chronicles their slow courtship. The Swinger’s ‘Counting the Beat’ is an upbeat highlight before a fast-paced journey through the reality of married life towards isolation and emotional distance, signalled by Blam Blam Blam’s punk anthem ‘There is No Depression in New Zealand’ and then a haunting rendition of Crowded House’s ‘Fall At Your Feet’ as part of its melancholy latter part.
Emerson and Davis are a wonderful pairing, conveying both the giddy glee of new love and the trauma of real life woes with equal conviction. Emerson has an enigmatic appeal as the charming, yet aloof Eric, coming to life as he hangs from the microphone as a lanky Mod in delivery its ‘60s songs in particular. His characterisation is accomplished, as shown in his other portrayal of Eric’s father at the couple’s wedding. Davis’ performance is more understated in its appeal, as she thoughtfully transforms from teenage girl to confident woman. The nuanced interactions and reactions of both are all the more noteworthy given that they tell their story in direct conversation with the audience, standing meters apart at separate microphones, giving male and female perspectives on the same events, never even looking at each other, yet creating an engaging sense of intimacy. Indeed, it’s just them, with Brown and a couple of other musicians also on stage.
The band is very good in their support of the soundtrack’s range of numbers, meaning that audiences don’t need musical familiarity to appreciate their perfect narrative placement and emotional gravitas. Both performers are strong singers, with voices suited to their particular numbers, Emerson, for example, in ‘She’s a Mod’ and Davis’ anguished ‘Anchor Me’. And the performances are perfectly complemented by Garth Badger’s backdrop video imagery of photo stills, home movie snippets and re-enactments.
“Daffodils” is far more than just a boy meets girl story. Rather, it is real life romance, indie-cabaret style. Its blend of storytelling and song is at once delightful and sublime. It is whimsical, yet bittersweet in his far from Hollywood happy-ending conclusion, but not overly sentimental, as could so easily be the case given the reality of is origins. And this is its appeal; its emotional truth comes from its beautiful and complex personal, but soulful story. Like the human experience it shares, it takes you from smiling face to sad sobs, to the sounds of its mix tape of New Zealand’s greatest hits, leaving you knowing that you have experienced something wonderful.
Photo c/o – http://brisbanepowerhouse.org/