SINGular Productions & Six Foot Something Productions
State Opera Studio
Until 07 Dec 2008

Review by Richard Flynn

“Elegies: a Song Cycle” presents some two dozen songs – solos, duets and full ensembles by its fivesingers. It’s by American playwright/composer William Finn about the loss of friends and family and aresponse to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Most of the songs were composed in memory ofhis friends, several of whom died of HIV/AIDS. Three deal specifically with the passing of his mother,Barbara Finn. The final set concern the collapse of the World Trade Centre and its emotional aftermath.Some songs are sad, some quite light-hearted and amusing.

Overall, “Elegies” is a beautiful piece of theatre but its premise - that “The living was the prize. Theending’s not the story” - is a too-glib summation of life, particularly a life abruptly cut off, ended in lessthan expected or peaceful circumstance, where those who mourn are searching, often in anger, forsome sense to it all.

But the living cannot be separated from the end; indeed it informs the end, whether that is anuncomfortable idea or not. They can’t be divorced from the human story and here perhaps is “Elegies”only real weakness. It slides too often into the realm of the sentimental.

David Lampard directs a simply wonderful cast of five singer/actors: Adam Goodburn, Paul Talbot,Cherie Boogaart, Elizabeth Campbell and Mark Oates. He has also designed the simple, evocative set ofa few drapes, earth colours of red, brown, peach, apricot, gold, green, and he moves his cast justenough to point up the loosely connected songs. Autumn leaves dropped here and there around thestage are both beautiful and warm, but they also herald decay, even as the glow from them (the castuse some as votive candles) becomes cold and lifeless.

Designer par excellence, Laraine Wheeler, lights it all in understated and entirely appropriate fashion.Rodney Hutton deserves a round of applause all to himself for a sound system quality that is rare in thistown. He is an operator who gets the levels right and always ready a tad before the actor speaks orsings. In other words, he does his homework and does not fly blind – not even on Opening Night.

How fortunate is Adelaide that theatre legend, Dale Ringland, now lives here. A man of long and variedexperience in theatre around the country, his musical accompaniment on the grand piano is a triumph.The music score is not simple but Ringland executes it with a sensitivity and panache that only someoneas good as he can do. Although out of sight by performance time, maestro Timothy Sexton, has broughtall together as the show’s Musical Director.

To complete the visual stimulation, we are treated to a parade of graphics by photographer, HarmonyNicholas. Her work adds considerably to the overall effect of some eighty minutes of most captivatingtheatre.

“Elegies: a Song Cycle” will not appeal to everyone but music lovers and those who want to see modernworks that otherwise would never make it to Australia are recommended to catch a performance.