Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Thursday, 3 December 2015
RICERCAR, FULL REVIEW ***1/2
RICERCAR by Present Tense Ensemble & Twoks TheatreWorks,
until Dec 12, 2015 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
RICERCAR- Laura Buzacott and John Howard
RICERCAR begins with a violinist leading the
audience along Acland St. and into the neighbouring church where J. S. Bach’s
music swells and the leadlight saints glow as the evening light fades.
This performance investigates and is inspired by the
musical form of Bach’s Fugues and Preludes and is divided in two parts: Book
One - Alpha in the church and Book Two - Omega performed in the theatre.
is the ideal space to hear Bach’s choral and instrumental music because the
acoustics and religious atmosphere are evocative of Bach’s own work in the
Thomaskirche (Thomas Church) in Leipzig.
church organ, a piano, violins and guitar blend with the chorus, soprano (Shauntai
Batzke) and tenor (Simon Gilkes) to create surging waves of sound that shift
into almost imperceptible ripples of distant harmonies.
One, the company creates a surround-sound by singing and playing in the balcony
choir, the pews, on the altar and in darkening or candlelit corners.
repertoire includes exhilarating pieces from some of Bach’s best-known works
such as St. Matthew Passion, The Well-Tempered Clavier and Ricercar a3 from
is more cohesive both musically and theatrically, but Book Two has some
stirring, even thrilling sections, particularly those soaring pieces that layer
all the voices and instruments to create a swelling soundscape.
performance is abstract in form with no linear narrative but, in some sections,
characters and relationships emerge to explore romantic moments or feelings of
loss, death or inspiration.
In a gently
comical scene, the white-clad chorus members sing as they dance a quirky
aerobics routine, while another witty musical moment has the soprano singing the
hymn, Ave Maria, against a rich, pounding, rhythmic and very contemporary score.
some inspired musical pieces in RICERCAR, but some of the more performative or
theatrical elements let it down by trying to add character, relationship or
gesture where it is not needed.
production, directed by Nathan Gilkes and Bryce Ives, is atmospheric and rich
with echoes of Bach, but the second half is patchy and too long which reduces
the impact of the whole.
Tense Ensemble and The Twoks deserve applause for this inventive and unusual
work that challenges our notion of operatic performance.
RICERCAR-(L-R) Aubrey Flood, Shauntai Batzke, John Howard, Daniel Han (standing)