It’s fascinating to be able to have another look at Origins, having seen it in an earlier incarnation in early 2008. The idea of a gathering to share stories and music is still the essence of the piece, but in many ways this has become a much stronger show. It’s more polished, more focused, and considerably more entertaining.
Origins now consists of four performers: Matthew Fargher, Ruth Langford and Lorrae Coffin from the original version, and newcomer Tania Bosak, a well-known Hobart percussionist and singer. It still feels like a jam session with interspersed stories and comments from the cast, only now the stories are a little more personal. Matthew Fargher, a fantastic musician who tackles many styles and instruments here, talks about his passion for nature as a young boy, encouraged by his father, and links this to Charles Darwin’s trips to Tasmania and the great man’s early musings on the idea of evolution. Later, Fargher plays a tiny ukulele, telling us it’s a family heirloom, and recounts his travels around the world collecting songs from different cultures. It’s rare to get such an insight into the working life of a musician while actually listening to that person play.
Most compelling, Fargher talks about what its like to face the death of a child, singing an emotional song about Charles Darwin’s reaction to the death of his beloved daughter Annie. Fargher has a straight-forward, honest voice, and the gift of allowing the audience into his musical process, which enhances the experience of listening to his songs.
The great thing about Origins is how four quite distinctive voices and personalities are brought together. Lorrae Coffin, a bass player and singer/songwriter from Broome, has a rich, textured singing voice, which contrasts interestingly with her much quieter speaking voice. She sings about her experiences growing up Aboriginal in Australia, such as in a memorable song about her grandparents, William and May, and their tender care and teaching of her as a child. Coffin is a refreshingly natural stage presence and a gifted songwriter.
Then there’s Tania Bosak, who talks about the experience of growing up Croatian in Australia and how’s she’s gradually learning more about her cultural heritage, immersing herself in the music of her people. She tells the inevitable anecdote about being the kid at school with the funny lunch (in this case, brown bread salami sandwiches, which sounds pretty good to me). Bosak is a versatile singer, throwing on a diva-ish persona as required but just as quickly reverting to a more collaborative mood.
Ruth Langford talks about her upbringing with an Aboriginal mother and white father. She describes the inherent contradiction of her anger towards white Australia (her parents were involved in the early days of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre) even while she grew up appreciating her father’s loving contribution to her life. Langford’s songs tend to be more of the protest variety, and are both illuminating and stirring.
Put simply, the music is what makes Origins. It’s a string of original, personal songs in a wide array of musical styles, from folk to reggae. There are snippets of personal stories and philosophical musings, with the more melodramatic aspects of the last version of the show, wisely, having been toned down.
Origins puts forward a positive message and is a sincere effort to engage the wider Tasmanian community in issues of cultural identity – both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – and a discussion about how our connection to the past and to the land shape each of our lives in the contemporary world. As Matthew Fargher remarks at one point, ‘A song isn’t complete until you know its full story’.
Venue: UTAS Studio
Dates/Times: 8pm, 2 - 4 April
Tickets: $15, $10 conc
Bookings: Tix at door or centertainment 62345998