Yesterday, I worked my last shift and attended my last show of the Sydney Festival, Australia’s largest multi-disciplinary arts festival. I can think of no better way to have gotten integrated into the city than by helping people and enjoying the arts. I really do appreciate this sort of festival which brings together music, visual arts, theatre and dance. Many shows delivered mixed reviews, but at least it got people talking. Overall, a true celebration.
The first show I saw, Happy as Larry, was directed/choreographed by up-and-coming Australian talent Shaun Parker. It was a colourful tight piece of choreography with funky design elements and staging. It was fun, happy, poppy but also posed questions about representation, relationships, and the fleeting nature of happiness. While it grew out of the personality model of the Enneagram, the final product definitely drifted far away. In the end, although the show lacked a very substantial core, it stuck with me and left me with a smirk on my face.
The Diotima Quartet was unfortunately under-attended. The talented string quartet from France baffled and enraptured the audience with a modern Japanese piece, as well as pleasing them with Onslow and Bartok. It was a really nice way to spend part of the afternoon, hearing extremely accomplished musicians do what they love.
Lynette Wallworth’s interactive video art installation at CarriageWorks was a wonder to behold. The moment I walked into the blackened space, I knew I had entered something special. As I lay my hand to the screen, I was all the more convinced that this Australian artist’s work would catch worldwide. She manipulates technology in such a way that she renders the experience human and intimate, a feat that deserves consideration by everyone, especially in the technologically accelerating world we live in today. More soon on the ArtBlog.
I was happy to see Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite at the festival. Her piece of work played with the idea of dark matter (the show titled Dark Matters) and invisible forces and creating a richly layered self-reflective work. While still in the need of self-editing and crystallization (I felt it was a bit too long and had already said what it needed to at a certain point), the show featured many innovations in the use of lighting and costumes (full black shadowy figures). Throughout the show, the deconstruction of spectacle, force and movement progressed and fascinated.
And last night, finally, I saw Peter Sellars’s Oedipus Rex & Symphony of Psalms, an age-old story that was retold in a poignant and incredibly strong way (delivered in the magnificent Concert Hall of the Opera House). The text spoken by Paula Arundell were so powerfully delivered, so palpable, masterfully sequenced with pauses, and carefully interspersed with movement. It was so gut-wrenchingly moving. Rodrick Dixon shone as Oedipus and didn’t use the strange over-gesturing (almost ASL-like) of the other singers (a feature of Greek Tragedy?). Joana Carneiro made her Australian debut conducting the orchestra while Ethiopian artist Elias Sime reated the African thrones on the minimalist set.The lighting was also quite evocative, playing with shadows and non-traditional use of the house lights as well as some use of fluorescents. While not perfect, the production was absolutely masterful, powerful, evocative.