How incongruous it is that the name of this piece is The Song Was Wrong, when every single element within it was so right. So much better than right though, it was exquisite, breath taking, provocative and captivating.
Perth Theatre Company has done it again! They have produced another show that is so much more than weekend entertainment. It’s beyond the realm of a “good comedy”, “good story” or “good performances”, it truly is Art.
The Song Was Wrong was Written and Directed by PTC’s Artistic Director and CEO, Melissa Cantwell. The work in itself is a thing of beauty, but she has surrounded herself with an exceptional team of people who designed and executed it with such precision, effort and attention to detail, that as I watched, I found myself repeatedly mouthing a silent “Wow!”
The story, which is both heartbreaking and uplifting spans generations and challenges our notion of time. It is surreal in that the same character exists at different moments in time, simultaneously on stage. A pianist falls in love with a French photographer and for a while, nothing else matters but the expression of their love.
Bruce McKinven’s set design completely transformed the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre and there was barely a stagnant piece involved in the creation of each space. Set pieces were ingeniously multi-functional. When combined with Matthew Marshall’s phenomenal lighting design, every curtain, prop, costume, shadow and aspect was designed, moved and used with impact. For the largest part, the stunning effect enveloped the production like a perfectly tailored coat. The final scene however, was transcendental and cinematic in its beauty.
The costumes by Aurelio Costarella and Fleur Kingsland were nothing short of jaw-dropping in their brilliance. Each bodice, dress, shoe, coat or shirt spoke volumes about its wearer and played its own role in the story telling.
Underscoring the play was the haunting composition of Nick Wales and Sound Design of Ben Collins. While my appreciation of it was mostly unconscious, at times I was drawn to actively admire the effect it was having on the action.
Lisa Scott-Murphy had the extraordinary task, with assistance from Sarah Nelson, to design the beautiful, symbolic movements that gave us insight into the mind of the characters and the space they were inhabiting. The Choreography showed us the contrast between light and burden, pace and stillness.
It is testament to how impressive the design of this production was, that I have come this far in writing my review without any mention of the performances. But they, like every other part in this intricate jigsaw, were complimentary to perfection.
The role of Pianist was played by Felix Jozeps who graduated from WAAPA in 2009, but has since been working in Sydney. To his credit, his live performance on the piano was proficient, delightful, pained and all it needed to be, which also describes his acting performance. Jozeps convincingly portrayed the awkwardness of a young man confronted by an instant burst of indescribable love and passion, then took us on his journey of pain and bewildering sorrow.
Astrid Grant was the Lover, the Muse who collected the Pianist’s heart and soul when they collided in space and time. Grant also brought a special talent to the role, in that she spoke French and English with a credible French accent. Based on her biography, I am assuming that she is Australian in Nationality, but has been working in France and Europe since. Like Jozeps, Grant showed us the journey between the pursuit of pleasure and in contrast, the sometimes painful consequences of risk. Her subtle expression and physical embodiment of each emotion was divine.
Jacinta Larcombe is a contemporary dance artist and performer who played the role of Florist, a sweet, impish forest creature with a cautious but playful demeanour. Larcombe’s character had a lovely intuition and altruistic nature. The Florist exists in an ambiguous relationship with each character and lets us draw our own conclusions.
So too, does George Shevtsov who is listed in the program as Man with Pram. Described as a “Silver Fox”, the Man is equal parts fragile, strained, joyful and full of life. His relationship with the Florist is warm and encouraging.
In this story, nothing is predictable. In fact, it raises more questions than it answers. It uses symbolism and metaphor to reach into our hearts and stir our minds. The language is poetic, and delivered through a variety of means from surtitles, to soliloquy, to interjecting affirmations from each character with their opinions about love, life and light.
The ancillary roles were played by Sarah Nelson and Thomas Papathanassiou. Nelson helped bring to life one of the funnier moments in the play when she fell asleep on the Pianist while seated next to him on the plane. Not only did they imbue the stage with life and complexity, they also had a large part to play in the synchronising of moving set pieces, a task that was well rehearsed and executed with precision.
Full credit goes to any and all who had a hand in this production. This is a play for musicians, lovers, artists, dancers and anyone who has an appreciation for the tenderness of humanity.
Perth Theatre Company presens
The Song Was Wrong
by Melissa Cantwell
Director Melissa Cantwell
Venue: Studio Underground | State Theatre Centre of WA
Dates: 4 – 20 June 2015