From forgiveness

I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room)

Theatre Republic, The Block

September 13 – 23

plane.jpgLike their earlier shows, “I Should Have Drunk More Champagne” and “I Want to Know What Love Is”, The Good Room’s “I Just Came to Say Goodbye” is derived from a deceptively simple premise; shared, anonymous submissions of fragments and memories, confessions and admissions, become the basis of the script. This time it is forgiveness and regret, with the true contributions of forgiveness yearned, earned and unfortunately absent, filing the spaces between tell of a bigger real-life story from recent history. And this is where the show’s strength lies… its basis in truth, even if it is initially diluted by a superfluously long dance sequence by an ensemble of stagehands. Although it is to establish that we are all on a flight together, it’s more dodgy than dynamic and a foil to the force of the story that follows, though that is probably the point.

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When, in 2002, two planes collided over Germany due to human (air traffic controller) error, Vitaly Kaloyeu lost his wife and two children amongst the killed passengers. It is this tragic story upon which the work hangs, leading to an extreme aesthetic experience of full black out, terrifying crash sound blasts and brutal lighting courtesy of Composer/Sound Designer Dane Alexander and Lighting Designer Jason Glenwright.

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Things are fast and furious with an apocalyptic sensibility, but also, at times, tender in heartfelt vulnerability and visually quite stunning as, through share of the anonymous contributions, the audience is sucker-punched with an array of emotions in scenes of anger, intimacy, humour and tragedy, from heavy-duty stories of assault and aids infection to more lighthearted tells of school dance disagreements and karaoke song theft.

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The ensemble cast appropriates every opportunity for connection from the material. Amy Ingram’s forthright delivery of details of the DHL cargo plane and Russian passenger jet collision allows the audience to bring their own emotion to its story. In contrast, Caroline Dunphy is tender in her description of the before and after of the crash site, but powerful too in her share of people’s sometimes shocking contributions. Thomas Larkin and Michael Tuahine bring a dynamic energy to the ensemble’s physical scenes, especially a spectacular, complex fight experience (choreographed by Justin Palazzo-Orr).

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In Director Daniel Evans’ hands, “I Just Came to Say Goodbye” avalanches the audience in sound, lighting and emotion, with a pumping soundtrack to boot. Some moments lag a little indulgently, but when it is at its ferocious best, it is a beast of a show that deserves experience more than just read of its description. As is often the case with the best theatrical events its craftedness is only really appreciated upon reflection of its heartening final, positive message about the power that can come from forgiveness and the importance of finding ways to move forward.

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Get your tickets at www.brisbanefestival.com.au

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Stories and song (lines)

Song Lines (Michael Tuahine)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Visy Theatre

June 1

For aboriginal and Torres Strait island people, a song line is who you are and where you come from. Accordingly, in his Queensland Cabaret Festival debut, “Song Lines”, acclaimed actor and singer, Michael Tuahine takes audiences on quite the journey of his ’42 and single’ song lines, weaving in and out of each other as the most genuine of stories often do.

There is an appealing authenticity from the tale that follows, stemming from the stories of his proud and determined Central Queensland mother and New Zealand Special Air Service Maori father, told with photographic slideshow accompaniment to help in celebrating the history and icons that have shaped his story. The show’s soundtrack is impressive in its considered curation, from Goanna’s ‘Solid Rock’ in tell of his mother’s life at Cherbourg Mission under total control of the Aboriginal Preservation Protection Act to Jenny Morris’ ‘She’s Has to Be Loved’ as chronicle of her journey, ‘waiting for some recognition’ to New Zealand, in search on her dreaming place.

There is much humour too, often at New Zealand’s expense. Indeed, Tuahine is a charismatic performer with a natural, comforting charm. The show is still a little rough around the edges; the live band accompaniment is competingly loud in, for example, in an otherwise outstanding ‘Great Southern Land’ opening number and there are few distracting sound and lighting issues. However, these a minor detractions from an otherwise absolutely entertaining cabaret experience.

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The Aussie and NZ soundtrack is a real treat, featuring as it does, songs from Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel and Split Enz, alongside lesson known numbers like ‘Brisbane Blacks’ and of course a singalong ‘Slice of Heaven’. While there is light and shade within the show’s soundtrack, including a wailing performance of Rob Orbison’s organic ‘Crying’, Tuahine is best when with guitar in hand in share of country rock sounds, which serves as reminder of his wonderful work as Jimmy Little in Queensland Theatre’s 2015 celebration of the musician’s life and music, “Country Song”.

Although it is a one man show, “Song Lines” is so much more than just one man’s story. In its trace of ancestry through music, it presents a rocking story of family, identity and belonging, told with pride and love. Its only pity is that it is a one-night-only season, as the want to return with others is strong, such is its infectious appeal.

Jimmy’s journey

Country Song (Queensland Theatre Company)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

July 4 – August 8

Front and centre of the Cremorne Theatre stage is a lone microphone, which is entirely appropriate given the promise of “Country Song” to celebrate the music and life of Australia’s Jimmy Little, the pioneering artist who journeyed from poverty and personal tragedy to become a country music star, inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame. However, it soon emerges that this introductory image is one that belies the show’s much bigger thematic tale of indigenous inspiration and hope.

Act One begins by taking the audience through past times in sensibility and song in presentation of Little’s life story from his youth with vaudeville parents in Cummeragunja to becoming the first aboriginal entertainer to be seen regularly on television. It is a journey enhanced by projected optikal bloc imagery to provide context and meld story and action. From the textures of the natural Australian landscape along the banks of the Murray River to RSL dressing rooms, the imagery and soundscape combine with subtle transitions to help bring the story to bolder life and although initially audiences may wonder why the screens are not higher, reasoning is gloriously revealed in Act Two’s rousing musical finale.

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As the essentially passive protagonist, Michael Tuahine is every part the good-natured, clean-living ‘Gentleman Jim’. His dulcet, delicate tones are perfectly suited to delivery of the singer’s signature tunes, like number one chart hit, gospel track ‘Royal Telephone’, however, it is his incredible rendition of Johnny Cash’s ‘Burning Ring of Fire’ that serves as pre-interval highlight.

Aside from Tuahine, all members of the cast serve multiple roles. As Little’s mother and then also as his wife Marg, Elain Crombie is another standout. Her clear and precise performances of both characters are engaging and touching. However, Act Two belongs to Megan Sarmardin as the angel of country music Auriel Andrew. Her rendition of ‘Danny Boy’ is just beautiful and cements the worth of her inclusion in the most recent Women in Voice showcase of talented female vocalists at QPAC as part of the Women of the World Festival. In his many roles, David Page is a comedic force; from Elvis to Slim Dusty (and with help from some ludicrous wigs), he shows a spirited energy to his characterisations, which results in many hilarious scenes.

With moments such as these, “Country Song” could easily be just a frolicsome little show through the landscape of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, complete with appropriate costumes and hair, however, Director Wesley Enoch is architect of a much bigger narrative through these times of discrimination and change. Whereas Act One focusses on Little’s story, Act Two shares of his legacy, in particular the stories of singer Auriel Andrew, political activist Bobby McLeod and boxing champ and sometimes singer Lionel Rose.

Although a fictionalised story, “Country Song” has many important things to say as it shines a light on Indigenous Australians who have contributed to the musical and social legacy of this nation. And as it weaves through the political and social landscape, the show’s pacing ebbs and flows through a wonderful soundtrack of music from a range of artists in a journey that will surely have audiences revelling, whether it be in memory of their parent’s collection or nostalgia of their own.

Photo  c/o – www.facebook.com/qldtheatreco