Thursday, 19 September 2013

City of Shadows, Sept 21, 2013 ***

City of Shadows–a song cycle of murder and  forensics
By Rachael Dease
Tower Theatre, Malthouse, Sept 21 to Oct 5, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review here and in Herald Sun online . KH
Rachael Dease (seated), Brian Kruger, Aaron Wyatt,  Hayley-Jane Ayres, Tristen Parr; Photo by Libby Edwards  

In City of Shadows, the haunting voice of Rachael Dease underscores the haunted faces of victims and perpetrators of murder.

The performance is initially an oddly mesmerising blend of songs written and sung by Dease and set against projected, black and white, forensic photographs from the 1920s to 1940s.

Some of the images of dead bodies are alarming and distressing, portraying the shells of humans looking like abandoned rag dolls with gaping mouths, cavernous cheeks and awkward limbs, or of blood-soaked murder locations.

Other pictures have a strangely calm or soothing quality, perhaps arising from the stillness of the bodies or the pastoral surroundings of their deaths.

Unfortunately, one becomes inured to the violent imagery, and this performance might benefit from a more dramatic, theatrical structure – rather than its concert format – with songs more coherently connected to the imagery or contextualised into a loose narrative.

Accompanied by the plaintive or sometimes shrieking strains of a string quartet (Violin: Brian Kruger & Hayley-Jane Ayres; Viola: Aaron Wyatt; Cello: Tristen Parr), Dease uses her powerful, resonant voice to sing original tunes of sadness, death, blood and loss.

During the songs, we see a parade of faces posed for the camera; some defiant, proud or unrepentant, others grave, fearful, sullen or broken-spirited, while a few have a strange glamour or artistry.

As the disturbing photos scroll down the screen, Dease’s lyrics deal with broader themes, rather than relating to particular photos or telling specific stories of crooks and their victims.

She sings, “All the sorrows streaked across your face,” and in other songs, “Turn to your left you’ll see who really bleeds,” then, “No one will hear your screams when you’re gone.”

At 40 minutes, the brevity of the performance is appropriate because, although Dease’s songs are melancholic and evocative, ultimately the style becomes repetitive and the tunes start to sound the same.

By Kate Herbert

Conceived, Written, Directed by Rachael Dease
Performed by: Rachael Dease (Vocals), Brian Kruger (Violin), Hayley-Jane Ayres (Violin), Aaron Wyatt (Viola), Tristen Parr (Cello)

Song List:
I - Prologue
II - Sobriety
III - Graveyard of Eden
IV - Lights Out
V - Malaise
VI - Glass Negative
VII -Gacela of The Flight (lyrics Gabriel Lorca)
VIII - Flies
IX - All In, All Out
X - Epilogue

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