Liz Stiles and Vincent Hooper. Photo - Nairn Scott
You may have seen shows at the Darlinghurst Theatre- perhaps the latest off-Broadway or fringe theatre success: a dark comedic script hailing from the northern hemisphere or a moving dramatic quartet? Perhaps you have watched the space transform into hundreds of places, or plays or styles or colours: or perhaps you haven’t. Regardless, there is something very unique afoot at the Darlinghurst Theatre, something which stretches beyond the regular confines of independent theatre: A musical!
Hello Again by Michael John Lachiusa, is a musical which is based upon La Ronde written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1900, a play which was considered scandalous and was banned for over 20 years after it was first written, being cited as pornographic. Hello Again, however Is a more recent reflection on the ideas presented in La Ronde: ideas about sexual predation and yearning for love, structured via a series of musical vignettes which trace the pattern of “predator” and “prey” throughout several decades.
Listed as type or title, the characters within this musical are defined by their coupling, in a chain which shows the progression of the interconnectedness between people. There are ten couples in all linked by sexual yearning: Whore (Lisa Callingham)/Soldier (Vincent Hooper); Soldier/Nurse (Liz Stiles), Nurse/College Boy (Keane Fletcher); College Boy/Young Wife (Katrina Retallick), Young Wife/The Husband (Matt Young); The Husband/The Young Thing (Gareth Keegan); The Young Thing/The Writer (Zack Curran); The Writer/The Actress (Sigrid Langford-Scherf); The Actress/The Senator (Nathan Carter). This cast is a strong and impressive group of performers: some recent WAAPA graduates, others seasoned musical theatre performers. Particular mention should go to Katrina Retallick for her portrayal of the Young Wife, which is both at times acerbic and impatient and yet hauntingly tender. And Zach Curran’s The Writer who is so amazingly narcissistic and egotistical when wooing The Young Thing and manages to shade the character with vulnerability and compliance in his coupling with The Actress.
The ensemble effect is very impressive on stage: at times the performers, dance through scene changes, offer close harmony back up singing, they move all set on and off the stage, and create an impressive presence when all on stage.
Geoffrey Castles as musical director balances the demands of a complex contemporary score with the spatial and acoustic limitations of the venue with great ease. The simplicity of the accompaniment (by 4 musicians: Geoffrey Castles, Samantha Gilberthorpe, Kerryn Blanch, Greg Jones) is strong, mellow and adds a warmth to the production which would otherwise be missing. The gentle underscoring and at times abrupt orchestration is well suited to the theme and style of the production, which crosses several musical genres including Opera, Disco, and 80’s Rock.
Director Stephen Colyer, is a world class dancer and performer in his own right, having danced for the Australian Ballet and Feld Ballet in New York, and has directed and choreographed this production with great flare and creativity. At times the cast are indulging in some showy routines, at other times in an Argentinian tango and at others bodies melt into tableaux of statuesque beauty. Not be overlooked is also Colyer's sense of humour and fun, which is sometimes kitsch and sometimes cheekily postmodern.
Colyer’s production is beautifully complemented by strong design from designers Iona McAuley (Set), Kate Williams (Costume), Gavan Swift (Lighting), Brooke Trezise (Sound) and Imogen Ross (Scenic Art). The set is a simple and elegant circular scrim which serves, as backdrop, divide, screen, curtains and at times creates an almost “soft focus” on the action. Costume design by Kate Williams is ornate and sophisticated, with hints of colour which echo throughout the production.
Although this is a visually fascinating, impressively choreographed and beautifully performed production, not all of Hello Again is easy to watch or hear. At times the discordant score jars with the sweet voiced performers. At times the failing and struggling relationships are difficult to watch. The repetition of lovers yearning, tormenting and destroying each other is exhausting. In a genre known for its hope and rosy view of love, this musical is fascinating as it completely subverts expectation. Love is fickle. Sex does not guarantee connection. And we are brought into the understanding that regardless of our intentions, we affect each other, damage each other and despite being ultimately connected to each other: whether we realise it or not. These ideas, ensure that Hello Again is more than a mere sexual romp, but an analysis of relationships.
With some strong performances, Colyer’s production of Hello Again is ambitious, clever, sexy and at times devastatingly tender and certainly a fantastic night out for those in search of provocation: on any level.
Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Gaiety Theatre present
by Michael John LaChiusa
within The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre | 19 Greenknowe Avenue Potts Point
Preview: Wednesday January 30 @ 8pm - Tickets $25
Dates: Thursday January 31 - Saturday February 23
Times: 8pm Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm Sunday
Tickets: Adult $35, Conc $30
Bookings: www.darlinghursttheatre.com or 02 8356 9987