What an experience! A huge out-door stage was not huge enough – on either side of it were three-storey gantries, also full of players playing their extraordinary instruments. There were a few sophisticated instruments, mainly drums and xylophone-like rigs, but the vast majority of the instruments were made from found objects. These included things like French horns made from witches hats and hosepipe, saws played with a bow (they sounded like the Chinese instrument Er-hu), musical glasses such as Mozart wrote for, and a huge array of percussion made from bottles, rubbish bags, shopping trolleys, garbage bins (of course) plant pots, oil drums, bits of PVC piping, even a door swinging improbably from its frame. And goodness knows what they made the bells from. At the end something like 500 singers including many schoolchildren arrived from both sides of the stage space and crammed themselves onto it too.
The show was a massive expansion of one devised for indoor performance by the creator of Stomp, Luke Cresswell. This expansion was carried out expressly for performance at the Adelaide Festival by Nigel Jamieson, who among other extravaganzas was responsible for putting together the colossal ceremony which opened the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Nigel told me that the making of the instruments had begun many weeks ago, and that learning to play things like the hose-pipe horns had also taken hours and hours, as they were much harder to play than brass ones… They actually couldn’t play very many different notes, but as there were 22 of them they made a formidable noise.
The saws, and the musical glasses, on the other hand could play lots of notes, and shone like beacons of light floating on the vast sea of percussion. The drums were so loud that my chest vibrated with certain notes – my lungs, I thought, must be tuned to low Bb. And loud a great deal of the music was; loud, repetitive and violently energetic, like trance, and from time to time I longed sometimes for music that wasn’t in 4/4 or 3/4. But the performances were so brilliantly choreographed, and so well rehearsed, that it would have been churlish to object.
There were moments of stand-up comedy too, including one sequence where two men were playing plastic bottles. One of the bottles was full, and the player progressively drank it until it reached the same pitch as his mate’s. From his swaying and tottering, I thought they must be full of vodka.
What an experience! It’s physicality was a matter of bodily sensation. If this was the vibe of the Festival, it will certainly go with a bang!
2018 Adelaide Festival
The Lost and Found Orchestra
Created by Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell
Directed by Luke Cresswell
Venue: Adelaide Riverbank, Elder Park SA
Dates: 3 – 4 March 2018
Tickets: $90 – $72