Friday, 12 October 2012

After Life, Oct 11, 2012 ***

Libretto and Composition by Michel van de Aa after Hirkazu Kore-eda
Regent Theatre, Melbourne
Melbourne Festival
Thurs Oct 11 to Sat Oct 13, 2012
Stars: ***

AFTER LIFE CHALLENGES OUR VIEW OF LIFE AFTER DEATH, just as Sartre did with his play, No Exit (Hell is other people).

Dutch composer, writer and filmmaker, Michel van de Aa, creates an eccentric blend of opera and documentary film in this production.

It is set in a way station on their way from death to the after life, where people must choose one precious memory only from their lives to cherish for eternity.

On stage are three after-life bureaucrats who process the newly dead that arrive bemused and addled by their sudden departure from the living world, helping them to decide upon their dearest memory then recreate it using scrappy, found objects in the way station and finally, film it for the souls to take.

Aidan, sung with passion by Roderick Williams, died young and, like his colleagues Chief (Yannick-Muriel Noah) and Sarah (Marijje van Stralen) was unable to choose his single memory so is doomed to stay in the limbo of this processing station until he chooses.

The new arrivals are Mr. Walter (Richard Stuart) an elderly man who fondly but not passionately recalls his wife, Ilana (Margriet van Reisen) a young girl who is confounded by her predicament because she has only bad memories.

Bryna (Helena Rasker) wishes to savour a warm memory of listening to a violin with her father.

The lyrics expound the stories of the on stage characters are often lost in the complex and dissonant music so we are strangely more intimately involved with the on screen characters, the real people, whose stories are so unembellished.

Tessa recalls her sadness at Apartheid in her home in Swaziland and her return there decades later. Bert remembers making a perpetual motion machine with his grandfather and Juul muses on returning to her birthplace in Holland while little Flint wants to cuddle his puppy again.

The genuinely poignant moment is when we see the final filmed, recreated memories that have evolved magical from childish recreations into lyrical, silent, cinematic gems that embody the emotion of the memory of the moment.

The music, played by members of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Wouter Padberg, is dissonant and contemporary, not for those who are unaccustomed to modern composition.

This is a challenging performance to watch but it compels onev to consider what is most precious in our lives. As the characters say, many major memories are pivotal and painful, not the types of memory that one would want to relive for eternity but what would you choose?

By Kate Herbert
Libretto & Composition - Michel van de Aa after Hirkazu Kore-eda
Conductor - Wouter Padberg
Orchestra - Representatives of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Aiden - Roderick Williams
Mr.Walter - Richard Stuart
Sarah - Marijje van Stralen
Ilana - Margriet can REsien
Chief - Yannick-Muriel Noah
Bryna - Helen Rasker

Film participants
Flint Louis Hignett, Bert Hornback, Dee Jager, Esther Jager, Tessa Marwick, Juul Mulle r

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