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Applespiel offers a most perceptive and cutting take on the music industry. They are a group of virile young performers riding the crest of a wave of cocky youthful exuberance. With second best not an option, Appelspiel's path is sure to resonate with any person who has either been in a band or devoted their musical attention to the latest fad group of the day. Slick writing combined with superb delivery and an engaging technical setup make Applespiel a rocking adventure that leaves you wanting an encore.

Applespiel is best described as a reality-tv concept applied to the music industry, charting the fame, fortunes, feuds, and failures of the next big thing on the music scene. Young and ambitious, Applespiel embody all of those characteristics that you associate with the rock music industry. This is a big part of the appeal of the show, for it seems that the references employed are timeless, being equally applicable to the bands forming today as to those of yesterday. Consequently there is a great versatility in the potential audience for the show, despite the presence of a young cast. While the show may be billed as a rock show, it is fair to say that you do not spend the hour listening to heavy rock music, so those averse to continued exposure to music of the younger generation need not fret.

The central idea in Applespiel is the creation of the tribute video - those often awkward compilation pieces that have numerous grabs from band members that tend towards glowing nostalgia, often to the point of inducing nausea in viewers other than the most ardent fans. For the seventy minutes that Applespiel capture your attention you will be embedded in the creative process that underlies such videos. This makes for an interesting experience, with interest in both how the show is executed and the audience reaction as they realise that they are watching a show that creates moments that go towards the creation of a show. It is, in a sense, a show about a show within a show, each an edited abstract representation of the reality that is out there somewhere. This makes the Applespiel experience a dizzying mix of voyeurism and intrigue, combined with reflection on your own musical interests. You will delve into the inner workings of the band that wanted it all, while also being confronted with the harsh realities of the music trade and the less than harmonious endings faced by many groups.

It is not an easy path for Applespiel, as they negotiate the progression from being a pub band - one where mates would rock up, pay a miserly fee and knock back a few drinks - to a band of increased public exposure. With public presence comes responsibility and you cannot help but feel that the members of Applespiel are at different places in the development and ability to handle such a public life. The tensions that arise from these varying developmental stages make for entertaining viewing that is sometimes uncomfortable because of its consequences. Whether it be the inevitable discussion of money, the messy allegations of copyright violation, or the nefarious talkback radio shock jocks who operate on the mere scent of blood, Applespiel clearly encounter a steep learning curve. To cap it all off, there is also the inevitable reformation of the group - that awkward moment when grudges and disputes are put aside for one last hit of the greatest drug of them all - aduation from unquestioning fans.

The plotting of these varied successes and failures forms the basis for the show, with the overall hubris of the group taking a battering on several occasions as their plight rapidly changes tack, often leaving them going against the prevailing breeze. Being able to depict this in a creative and new manner is a real strength of the show. The execution of the show is particularly noteworthy, since it combines technology with performance versatility that results in a presentation style that few others would dare attempt.

Perhaps the best hint of the show's presentation style came in the flyer, which noted that "this is us reaching out through the camera and asking you to love us." Ignoring the ego-driven, self-serving pleas for adulation that are inherent in the quote, there is also a strong pointer towards the delivery style of the show. Ultimately the camera is central to the effectiveness of the show, while also being an added degree of difficulty that definitely enhances the execution. In the style of a documentary crew, there are numerous video cameras used by the cast members, with each responsible for capturing footage at various points in the show. The footage is fed live to a number of television screens present in the theatre. This creates an interesting dilemma for the audience, forced to choose between watching the live action or watching the story that is being fed through to the television screen.

What should we believe - what we see or what we see on television? This is a pertinent point given the societal trend towards increased television coverage and debate about how events are framed and depicted in the media. The staging design means that there is always something happening in the theatre space, whether it be delivery of material or other performers getting into position for their next piece. While it took some getting used to at first, the delivery of the show through the television screens did work as an effective way of reinforcing the intended style of the show.

The young cast proved most adept at delivering the material in a highly polished manner, proving most accomplished in what seemed like a busy show with a lot going on. No doubt they were greatly assisted by the well written material, which was tightly structured and most effective in conveying its intended message. While there was a lot said none of it could be considered superfluous to the central tenets of the story.

From the outset Applespiel wanted to be the best. They made several presumptions about the nature of their fans, the path of making records, and the dynamics of their group. Their path - and its depiction in the show - is perhaps a great reminder of the extent of impression management and image control that is present in the modern environment. Applespiel wanted to be big, they wanted to tell a story, but they wanted to tell their story their way. They wanted to make a statement and be a statement that others would follow. Caught in their own hype and publicity the fantasy of the rock world was soon surpassed by the reality of a brutal, demanding industry that takes no prisoners. The myth and the fact of the industry and its participants are fully exposed by the journey of this young band.

The Applespiel story is one that will resonate with many. It is a simple story that is so often depicted in the news. Bands forming and breaking up are nothing new. However the production choices made in Applespiel, along with the fine young cast who play out the story, mean that Applespiel will seem unique. Laden with references to rock groups of various decades and musical satire that more often than not hits the mark, Applespiel promises fun and laughs through a reality-tv style depiction that means you will never take the music industry so seriously again. Applespiel ultimately represents a job well done.

WHEN: 3 - 13 September
WHERE: The Tower Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse, Melbourne
DURATION: 70 minutes

IMAGE CREDITS: Lachlan Woods (2014)

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