The front of house area of the Judith Wright Centre was buzzing by the time I arrived, relieved to be inside and out of the relentlessly pouring rain. After years of being urged by friends to see her, I was eager to see what all the hype about Emma Dean would add up to, and the rest of the audience seemed no less excited. Whispers about the outstanding talent of her new creative partner-in-crime, Jake Diefenbach, led me to believe that if all the rumours could add up, something special was definitely afoot.
The night began with a magical routine by local duo Pixie and the Halloran. Performers Indigo Keane and James Halloran took to the stage with a feisty energy, their gothic, somewhat creepy performance tempered by the manically fun sparkle each held in their eyes. Songs with the subjects of witches and fairy-floss were performed in unison, the pairs' operatic voices strong and clear, their vigorous showmanship demanding of attention.
The two departed the stage in slow stepping unison to the cheers of a crowd much riled up to see more great theatre. After a short interval, An End to Dreaming got underway. Dean and Diefenbach began telling their modern-day musical fairytale cloaked and hooded in dark velvet, whispering through the crowd amongst the cries and calls of animals that sounded nearly prehistoric. Cleverly placed narration informed the audience of the deep forest setting and the strong imagery within the lyrics was all that was needed to see beyond the mostly bare stage to the mystical surrounds of the performers.
Emma Dean's talents are impossible to exaggerate. Her voice is strong, smooth and controlled, her sense of theatrical timing impeccable and on stage she is all but riveting to watch. Her pairing with Jake Diefenbach is one of genius, and in this character his gentle charm complemented Dean's strength perfectly. Diefenbach is unnervingly talented on the piano, the instrument coming to life as at once a much loved or loathed extension of himself each time his fingers met the keys.
From the dark depths of the story's beginning the two travelled, audience in tow, towards the brighter ending. Beautifully simple yet powerful lighting states added tension, building with the exquisite musical score. By its end the audience was speechless, wide-eyed and full of wonder at what they had just witnessed.
Pleased to be able to finally add my recommendation to those I had heard so often about Emma Dean's works, by the time I re-entered the foyer my expectations had been more than blown away. Dean and Diefenbach's future work, under their new name Geppetto, is now on high rotation on my own recommendations list, along with any upcoming performances of Pixie and the Halloran, and the exquisite memory of my experience of An End to Dreaming will ensure that it will stay there for a long time to come.
AN END TO DREAMING
Emma Dean and Jake Diefenbach
Venue: Performance Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts | 420 Brunswick St (Cnr Berwick St), Fortitude Valley
Date: Saturday 28 April, 2012
Time: 8pm - 9:45pm (inc interval)
Tickets: Cabaret $35 I Theatre Full $30, Conc $25, Groups 8+ $25
Bookings: www.judithwrightcentre.com | 07 3872 9000