BWW Review: MODERN MAORI QUARTET: TWO WORLDS at Arts Centre Melbourne
Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds succeeds in simple sublime storytelling, warming the heart and nourishing the soul.
This one hour contemporary narrative is visiting Melbourne for the first time as part of Arts Centre Melbourne's Big World, Up Close series. The event is in its third year and for 2019 the collection of six works focuses on "a vision of amplifying vital voices in contemporary performance".
Produced by New Zealand-based arts management firm SquareSums&Co, this musical evening excels in blending traditional Rat Pack vibes with a contemporary Maori texture. The result is a musical genre which is sensational to listen to.
When you enter a theatre to find a barren stage with only several guitars and a wooden box on it, you know the pending performance will be focused exclusively on unembellished storytelling. The show does however at the beginning lull the audience into a relaxed and blissful illusion that we'll be simply entertained by pleasing tunes. Very quickly though the mood changes and those same melodies are used to allow each character to unburden their individual poignant stories onto the audience, packing a powerful punch.
Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds succeeds in using the desolate stage to create a 'purgatory' backdrop for its characters to inhabit as they remain sandwiched between two worlds. While the cosy Fairfax Studio venues fits the show like a glove, an adaption in a more prodigious setting would also work.
The four performers Matariki Whatarau, Francis Kora, Matu Ngaropo and Rutene Spooner all deliver strong individual vocals and powerful quartet singing. They all exude exemplary comic timing, referring to themselves as Maori Riverdance when executing their slick choreographed Motown moves. They also make an amusing link between a humble egg shaker instrument and a certain Queensland politician's egging incident earlier this year. All four men deliver tender monologues that bring a tear to the eye. Their performance versatility is remarkable!
The show also features the voice over talent of Kura Forrester a Billy T Award Winner. The voice of a mythical undefined being plays an important part in meshing all the elements of this production together and it was therefore disappointing to not have this crucial role delivered as a live performance. While the dialogue was excellently delivered, expecting a live performer to interact with a pre-recorded performance will always unnecessarily jarr the storytelling process.
That being said overall the writing and direction of this piece is extremely well executed. Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds will bring a tear to your eye, a smile to your face and have your toes tapping all night.
Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds gives a unique Aotearoa angle to this creative vision. It enriches its audiences through beautiful close harmony singing, cheeky comedy and raw storytelling.