Friday, 2 October 2009

The Suicide Show ***

by A Bit of Argy Bargy, Full Tilt
Black Box, Victorian Arts Centre,  Oct 2 to 10, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

If you call a production The Suicide Show, the nature of the content is self-evident. You might not expect a cabaret-style show with songs – mostly by famous artists – and monologues that all relate to depression or suicide. The dark theme is depicted in diverse forms; some perversely comical, others grim.

The 16 songs and vignettes directly address the audience in a typically confronting cabaret manner. Some dialogue material is by Tom Holloway and the cast devised the remainder. (Mark Jones, Fernando Gallardo, Duncan McBride, Adam Pierzchalski (OK), Gabriel Piras, Kaelis Zaid (OK)).  The inimitable Mark Jones arranged the songs and music and his rich vocal tones, powerful physical presence and riveting gaze make him the most compelling performer.

The show opens with the trumpeting strains of Fanfare For The Common Man (Aaron Copland).  Of the songs that follow, some are spoken in a recitative style while others are sung. The styles and arrangements are diverse including a capella, power ballad, latin, choral harmonies and love ballad. Director, Martin White, plays with the staging and and adds inventive lighting and projection (Adam Hardy, Kim Kwa, Stewart Haines).

The titles tell the story: People Equals Shit by the suicidally named Slipknot; Lithium by Nirvana whose leader was a famous suicide; Something Is Not Right With Me (Coldwar Kids): Better Off Dead, a quirky song about unrequited love by Randy Newman; and Hurt (Nine Inch Nails) that is about inflicting and experiencing pain.

Holloway wrote original lyrics to Mates, a wry song depicting a suicidal man whose friends try to cheer him up. What A Day, performed with a brittle, dark humour by Jones, is a monologue about a drunk who decides today is the day he will step onto railway tracks and wait for a train.

A show about suicide would not be complete without Lou Reed, whose songs are like life through the bottom of an empty vodka glass at four in the morning. Good Night Ladies is sung with ironic cheer by five voices.

So take a valium or two or pop the top off a beer and get out there and groove to the black beat of The Suicide Show.

By Kate Herbert

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