BWW REVIEW: Guest Reviewer Kym Vaitiekus Shares His Thoughts On CHORUS by Bontom
Thursday Sept 5th, 7.30 pm, Old Fitz Theatre
Guest reviewer Kym Vaitiekus shares his thoughts on CHORUS
Bontom presents CHORUS:
"Agamemnon is a pop musician with a cult following and a deep secret. As she ends her sell-out world tour and heads back to the house that used to be her home, memories that she's tried so hard to keep buried begin to breathe again, so vivid she could die. And she very well might."
This production tells the story of a young performer who ultimately choses between family and fame on the journey to obtain success in the music industry.
It also explores the struggles one has in relationships especially when it clashes with the career of a pop icon.
The presentation is a mix of stage film and podcast. The cast (chorus) half tell the story and half perform it. This style of staging reflects an aspect of the subject matter at hand. A world with struggles caused by and about social media.
The performance/performers almost distance themselves from the core issues by using social media devices: cameras, comments, imagery and the act of relating without looking each other in the eye. By doing so this imitates some of the relevant issues at hand. Cleverly the art imitates life.
At first it felt a bit awkward to have the cast tell the story and not be the story. The actors were saying the lines, not becoming their characters.
As events came to the fore, the story became more enticing. When the actors engaged, the struggles of the characters became real. A bit like social media, when it's put away we all start to actually relate.
Having said that, the device of a large screen backdrop gave us close ups and alternate angles on the performers. It gave us more insight into the characters and their stories.
Theatre traditionalists could say that using video and large screens is cheating, "it's a film not theatre." In this production Clemence Williams use these devices to great affect.
Besides these choices being an indication of the world we live in, the elements come together to create a visually stunning piece. The staging of the cast/chorus towards the end adds to the dynamic climax. Williams Sound design captured the intensity, drama and emotion to great effect.
Veronique Bennett's lighting is superb and works for both stage and the video which is designed by Sarah Hadley (although the left side of the screen looked generally a bit darker than the right throughout the night).
Credit goes to the cast that do a superb job in remembering all their lines while switching between various roles, as narrators, characters and camera operators.
The chorus/cast find their groove and tell/be the story with gusto, enthusiasm and passion. The climactic finale is engaging to watch but at the end I wondered why we were taken on this journey of a struggling musician and mother.
The characters and audience felt the challenges, pain and difficulties of this life, but what of it? What is next?
Ella Prince played Agamenon with strength, conviction and with a commanding presence. Jack Crumlin played the ex partner with authenticity, warm and intensity that suited a father in grief and scorn. I enjoyed Eliza Scott's choices when performing her various roles and look forward to further work from her. Madelaine Osborn, Nicole Pingon and Chemon Theys provided fine performances in their key roles and were somewhat less engaging with their minor parts in the first half.
I can imagine some audience members will not connect to some of the stylistic choices made in the staging and presentation of this contemporary version of the ancient Greek tale.
I encourage those that like to explore a new vision and a contemporary approach to go along and investigate this passionate presentation of CHORUS.
Photograph: Phil Erbacher