Hamilton Gardens, English Flower Garden, Hamilton

24/02/2016 - 26/02/2016

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

This Verbatim theatre piece has been created from recorded interviews revealing fascinating revelations and insights into music and its role as an integral part of our everyday lives. 

Hear how music has been used to transport, belong, understand, romance, transcend, mourn, distract, focus, energise, escape and inspire. 

English Flower Garden
Wed 24 Feb, Thu 25 Feb & Fri 26 Feb 2016
6:00pm Wed & Thurs
1:00pm Fri 
Tickets: $15

Nuanced truth with style

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 24th Feb 2016

Another stunning day in Hamilton is nearing its end; my faithful festival review buddy Frances and I are pleased to be ushered straight into the English Flower Garden and even happier to be in time for a front row seat. 

I am a Carving in Ice Theatre fan, and as such am excited to see what director /writer /interviewer Gaye Poole has done this time. Her production of Love and Information won me over in aces a couple of years back.  Whilst more recently her direction of Blue Stockings left me a little cool, I know Poole has the goods, and I hope that is what we will see tonight.

Life Music is verbatim theatre, as explained in the programme: created from recorded and filmed interviews (27 of them), uncovering revelations and fascinating insights into music and its integral role in everyday lives. Of course, as the term verbatim suggests, the final dialogue used in the piece is retained ‘word for word’. 

As well as being my faithful festival review buddy, Frances is also a real music fan, with a diverse range of appreciations across genres that most people might struggle to link. I am a bit the same. Music started our friendship; both of us can yarn about music until the cows come home. So, I have a feeling this will be a show we can really sink our teeth into.

Gaye Pool takes centre court to tell us that there has been a hiccup with the band which is sound checking for a later performance in the American Modernist Garden, so we must wait another ten minutes until the show starts. Gaye smiles and says, “I hate starting late.” Not as much as I hate late shows Gaye… grumble. This year’s Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival has repeatedly dropped the ball on timely audience management and punctual turn over of shows. Grumble. Not good enough.

What, however, is certainly better than good enough is this piece of theatre. It’s bloody fantastic!

Music is so personal and yet it is universal, and so, in devising this piece Poole and her band of interviewers/writers (some of whom are also actors in the piece) have richly mined Hamilton’s musical treasury to bring forth stunning, candid, emotional and downright beautiful recollections. The work is evident: trawling through hours of footage and transcripts, the collective have pulled together golden threads of the human soul and woven them together so eloquently, so richly. If this theatre piece was a blanket, I should think I would wish to be wrapped it in for eternity.

I feel right at home with the actors; they all do a marvellous job of keeping the truth and insistence of every day ‘speak’. Verbatim can so easily go wrong if the actors are not able to slip into their work with naturalness; it easily becomes blaringly trite. Not so here. This is all class.

I am swept away in the stories, in the honesty… I hear each unique voice and marvel that I am not confused at all by the crossover – as each actor has been endowed with the all-important nuances to bring each character home in world class style, and are subsequently well-directed. 

The coup d’etat for me is turning to Frances and almost together whispering, “That’s Paul!” Yes, there’s truth to the notion around two degrees of separation in little old New Zealand. I must congratulate Liam Hinton who proves a remarkable study in that, even mute, I feel sure I would have recognized his excellent portrayal of our friend.

It strikes me that Poole is particularly gifted when it comes to directing a fast, synergetic, moveable feast. She manages to keep all of her ‘plates’ spinning whilst maintaining the script’s momentum, which breeds that all-important magic of theatre, whether it be verbatim or made of imagination.

Our players appear at home and float between the interview subjects that they play, and all of them are assigned three or four. Cian Gardner, Liam Hinton, Calum Hughes, Clive Lamdin and Missy Mooney are the standouts for their unflagging energy and staunch synchronicity. 

If you are not a big music person, reading this and thinking this is not a show for you, I beg to differ. There is as much for a music fan as there is for one who has lived (SPOILER: to steal part of a line from the show) a life in silence. 

My one hope is that at some stage Poole will find a home for her monstrous hit inside a black box, where strains of other shows, native birds and cicadas are muted, giving all the focus to the words and the actions of this superb cast, and the director who has tied this piece so beautifully together. I just feel that the quiet and focus would lend so much more to the piece, and I for one will pay good money for a front row seat when that indoor season is announced. 

Life Music runs on until February 26 at the Gardens and then moves east for two shows (10/11 March) on the Lakeside Stage at the University of Waikato. Despite the interruptions of nature (such is unavoidable in outdoor venues), see it.

PS: Take a hanky, you may find tears spring very easily.  


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