Blackbird Ensemble DREAMS

Concert Chamber, Town Hall, Auckland Live, Auckland

30/09/2016 - 30/09/2016

Auckland Live International Cabaret Season 2016

Production Details

Bed. A place for sleeping, dreaming, love-making and a fertile ground for musical inspiration.  

In a candlelit Victorian bed chamber, Blackbird Ensemble’s Dreams explores music inspired by our subconscious minds, dream states, nightmares, lullabies and rituals of the bedroom. 

CONCERT CHAMBER, Auckland Town Hall
30 September 2016, 9pm
$18.00 – $210.00
Service fees apply. 

Table of six$210.00
Table of eight$280.00
Standard tickets

Premium:  $39.00 
Concession:  $35.00 
Gallery:  $22.00 
Gallery concession:  $18.00

1 hour 30 mins, no interval
Contains adult themes
Accessible seating available
Hearing aid loop performances  

Theatre , Cabaret ,

1hr 30m approx

Visually sumptuous and musically accomplished but not what’s promised

Review by Candice Lewis 01st Oct 2016

With a backdrop of ruched white parachute silk and an overhanging cloud, the dreamy mood is set. Soft and dramatic lighting illuminates the cloud and changes colours throughout the show. The tones of apricot, pink and gold are breath-taking.

The stage itself is filled with promise: a large drum, various instruments and two unmade beds. The promotional pamphlet says they will be exploring “music inspired by our subconscious minds, dream states, nightmares, lullabies and rituals of the bedroom”.

The Blackbird Ensemble is led by Auckland composer Claire Cowan. The music and visual impact is very beautiful and it is obvious that these are skilled musicians, most of whom play more than one instrument. The promised exploration of the subconscious mind hints that something will come to the surface: an iceberg, a monster, the mermaid of the soul?

Instead they have chosen songs that embody a submerged and hypnotic state from which we rarely escape, like the dream in which you are running but get nowhere.

There are all these attractive musicians in bed with stringed instruments which is sensual and creates instant intimacy. I’m surprised at the absence of sexuality or any outright ‘naughtiness’ that usually appears in a Cabaret serving.  Not a cup of coffee or poppy tea in this bedroom, and certainly no orgies. Perhaps I’m missing the point and this slow pace and absence of sexual tension represents a nightmare state? 

The first few opening songs, including a duet between the lead female singer and the lead male, appear to be building up to a climax of some kind. The woman has a lovely voice and moves between ethereal and ‘show tune’ style with ease.

The male singer approaches the stage with confusion; his character appears to have anxiety and a moderate disability regarding movement. His fingers curl and shoulders stiffen with the involuntary and often painful spasm of the palsied. I have worked as a care giver and so I’m speaking from that experience.  Is he a strung-out drug addict or does he have a motor neuron disease?  We just don’t know. He behaves like someone not sure if they are awake or asleep and maintains this throughout.  His singing style is loose in contrast to the lead female’s precision.

The narrative seems to be about their failing relationship and the resolution of it includes a sweet, possibly motherly cuddle. I’m not sure the issues of Oedipus are meant to be included, but if so, this could be expanded upon and they could really do a number on us. 

Another male singer does The Cure justice and ‘Lullaby’ is the highlight of the show – this wonderful creepy moment when a nightmare is going to wake us up! I would love to have heard and seen more of this guy (there is no cast list sorry) and was hoping he would go and feast on a cast member (enjoy the pun if you wish). He has intensity and presence that is much appreciated and also provides the only laugh.

As it currently stands, this is a skilled and magical covers band in pyjamas and silk nighties. If there is original song writing featured I am not aware of it and am happy to be corrected. This show may not deliver ‘stories you could only dream up’ yet it is visually sumptuous and musically accomplished.


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