Ghost Quartet / Sensory Decadence (Gasworks) – theatre reviews

Two shows run in parallel at Melbourne’s Gasworks in Albert Park until 23 August 2019.

Ghost Quartet (Antipodes Theatre Co)

A palpable chemistry exists between four excellent performers who bring a surreal musical experience to life. They are music director David Butler (on piano, synthesizer and spring drum), Melissa David (on keyboard, harpsichord and drum), Patrick Schnur (on cello, bass drum and guitar) and Willow Sizer (on ukulele, drum and bass guitar).

The four overlapping and interwoven stories span seven centuries. Roxie and Rose is a warped fairy tale about two sisters. Edgar Allen Poe gives us The Fall of the House of Usher. In a subway, a victim is pushed onto a track in front of a train. Arabian Nights and the ghost of jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk also get a look in. The combination of harmonisation and out of sync musicality defies easy description. At times I found it challenging, while on other occasions blissfully lyrical.

Ghost Quartet

This is a head-scratcher with vocalisation and multiple instruments blending and then clashing. The 90 minutes effectively presents a double album. The song cycle is mysterious, magical and befuddling.

I’d describe Ghost Quartet as “eclectic”. The whole experience appears to have been shaped by a mind that draws inspiration from the likes of David Lynch and The Twilight Zone. It’s the work of American composer, playwright and lyricist Dave Malloy. First performed in New York in 2014, this Australian production is superbly directed and designed by Brandon Pope.

True to its name, Ghost Quartet has an otherworldly feel.

Sensory Decadence (One Fell Swoop Circus)

One Fell Swoop provides new circus with a twist in Sensory Decadence, a piece themed around excess.

The concept is promising and the start encouraging. The performers stand behind an elegantly laid out long table (which happens to be on a swing), only for it all to disappear … but not in the way we might be expecting. Next, one of the artistes, Ryan Darwin, performs on the same oblong plank in a smorgasbord of bread. The baked items become props of choice for a series of athletic manoeuvres.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the five performers capitalised on the initial momentum. I felt the pacing throughout was languid. One routine involved dirt; but a fiery beginning quickly fell flat.

One Fell Swoop – Sensory Decadence

In total, the acrobatic feats of skill, strength and balance are familiar. More out-of-the-box material would have helped. The sticky end though comes full circle; and again shows creativity and originality.

So, the piece is well book-ended but the rest seems a work in progress. Created and directed by Charice Rust and Jonathan Morgan, Sensory Decadence is performed by Ryan Darwin, Ellen Grow, Jonathan Morgan, Charice Rust and Latonya Wigginton.

Alex First

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