I Left My Heart in Highgate Hill (The Collective, in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre
“I Left My Heart in Highgate Hill”, is a song cycle conceived and written by singer-songwriter Sean Sennett. And this year’s Wonderland Festival saw the ultimate romantic ode to Brisbane album presented live on stage with a live band joined by some of Queensland’s finest performers. The one-show-only event audience was obviously a crowd of performer family and friends, gathering by the camera clicks and video screen phone illuminations (at least turn down the brightness!). People’s enthusiasm for the project and its artists is clear, yet as someone being introduced for the first time, the exclusivity made connection with the performances difficult, despite the intimacy created by the Visy Theatre in thrust stage setup.
While the show is bookended by spoken word segments from which title is taken, the experience is all about the music and, accordingly, the sounds fill the room with all sorts of genres, from the folksy sounds of ‘Winter in August’ by Charlotte Emily, complete with coy vocals and tambourine amongst accompaniments, to the yearning ballad, ‘On Christmas Day’ by Lucinda Shaw. And in every instance, the band does an excellent job in showcasing the variety of styles.
The eclectic line-up of songs revolves around the same key theme of love, requited and otherwise, but still offers something for everyone when it comes to musical styles and sensibilities. The ‘fast one’ ‘Oscar & Lucinda’ (Megan Cooper) serves up some toe-tapping country-esque sounds and there is a lovely la-la-la twinkle and bubbles (literally) to ‘A Notion of Your Heart’ (Deb Suckling). Standout songs include the lingering ‘Valentine’s Day’ and catchy ‘We’ve Come a Long Way’ which share the sounds and sincerity of The Go Betweens’ drippy style.
The distinctive sounds come courtesy of eight singers and when they join together in the final number, ‘All Tied Up’, they meld well in lovely melody. In terms of individual performance, Deb Suckling’s voice is richly textured and commanding in an earth-motherish performance of ‘Lost and Found’. More up-tempo and over-too-soon is Lucinda Shaw’s ‘You Broke My Heart at the Big Day Out’; the number not only showcases her dexterous vocals in contrasting sensibility to her earlier number, but encourages a dynamic and engaging performance highlight.
While the revolving door of lead singers provides interest, audience time with each seems to be over too soon, making me wish for consecutive numbers from artists rather than switches after each number and resulting program pauses. Some more information about the songs could also assist in appreciating the Brisbane references at the core of so many of the numbers and fostering a more enduring connection to enhance the show’s already many positives.