25 August 2011

Review: An Actor Prepares

An Actor Prepares: The Songs of Love and Grief
Eagle's Nest Theatre
21 August 2011
Broken Mirror Studio
27 and 28 August


Nela Trifkovic has created a musical adaption of Eagles Nest's An Actor Prepares. Now subtitled The Songs of Love and Grief, the adapted work is an emotional reflection of the original that discovers new depths of sorrow and grief and more moments of lightness and humour.

Nela Trifkovic has performed the piece with its writer James Adler. She also performed it by herself in New York and has now made a musical adaption of the work, which Adler wrote in 2001 as a very personal response to Australia's sending of troupes to Afghanistan. Adler has freely let go of his script to direct this fascinating new version.

With the familiar white costumes and empty stage of previous versions, the new text uses poems by Garcia Lorca and Trifkovic's own challenging, haunting and ultimately beautiful compositions. The actor preparing is now a musician, Trifkovic, who is joined by singer David Howell.  His soft falsetto and gentle stillness and her guttural depths and striking kaberet-style bitter humour contrast so vividly that the unusual combination of voices and styles becomes so much more exciting than any predictable and blandly safe harmony.

With images like "children with guns doing what a child cannot do" to thoughts contemplating "the presence of god in pirate movies", it hypnotically takes the audiences to unexpected emotional extremes which creates diverse individual responses. While the original scripted version is about sharing in the actor/bomber's horror, this one lets the audience find their own personal journey in the music.

Although ultimately reminding us that people use bombs to be heard, The Songs of Love and Grief leaves us images of love that rouse our hearts and a sense of hope that we must be more than a world that's "painting nightmares in our children's dreams".

There are two more performances of An Actor Prepares: The Songs of Love and Grief this weekend. If you liked any of the previous versions, this is something so different that you really should compare, and if you didn't like the previous versions (Samela Harris, I'm talking to you), this may change your mind.

This review appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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