BWW REVIEW: THE ROYAL EDINBURGH MILITARY TATTOO SYDNEY 2019 Gives Sydney A Taste Of The Scottish Tradition With An Australian Twist
Thursday 17th October 2019, 7:30pm, ANZ Stadium
THE ROYAL EDINBURGH MILITARY TATTOO SYDNEY 2019 returns to Sydney with a blend of military tradition and Indigenous storytelling. With over 1,500 performers from 14 nations, the ALL POINTS OF THE COMPASS themed Australian version has a particularly South Pacific feel as Australian neighbours feature heavily in the two part program.
The history of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place annually in the Esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle, stems back to the 1950 where the previous year's Military Tattoo at the nearby Princes Street Gardens was moved to the event's current site. The annual end of summer event sees military, and now also civilian bands from across the Commonwealth entertain audiences with Scottish Pipes and Drums, Brass Bands, Highland dancers and special events like historical battle re-enactments. The large elevated fortification, which has parts that date back to the 14th Century and houses the Crown Jewels of Scotland, is an imposing backdrop and the audience seating sits close to the performance parade ground, adding to the grandeur of the event.
For the Sydney event, a replica of the Castle, constructed of scaffolding and painted scenes spans the southern end of the ANZ Stadium with the expansive playing field painted with indigenous artwork designed to represent the Southern Cross. These markings also create a stage of sorts for the bulk of the performances, with indigenous design of a meeting place on the eastern flank providing a focus for the Indigenous Australian Song Cycles. Whilst the stadium has the benefit of allowing a large audience to experience the event, it does have the drawback of positioning the performance a large distance away from the audience, loosing some of the impact and immediacy of the original staging.
The Sydney event draws a combination of traditional military bands that would feature regularly in Scotland including the Massed Pipes and Drums, Massed Military Bands of the United Kingdom, along with local bands of The Combined Military Bands of The Australian Defence Force. Aside from the Musique de l'Artillerie from France and Top Secret Drum Corps from Basel, the rest of the bands are drawn from the local region of India, Indonesia, New Zealand and smaller South Pacific nations. Groups of note are the astoundingly precise and daring Top Secret Drum Corps and the delightfully entertaining Indonesian TNI Academy Drum Band which feature a series of enthusiastic and energetic band leaders and drummers draped in animal furs creating drum pyramids and generally darting around in an amusingly hyperactive manner. Dance elements are presented by the Tattoo Dance Company of highland dancers that don traditional tartans and more contemporary mini kilts. The Lochiel Marching Drill Team demonstrates the almost lost art of the precise marching girls with incredibly perfect presentation of The Ice.
Showcasing Australia's neighbors, Our Ocean People presents a combined cultural performance rather than military numbers from representatives from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. This, along with the Te Pikikotuku o Ngati Rongomai vocal and dance performance and the compass point song cycles by Australian indigenous performers ensures the evening has a strong recognition of first nations cultures although better explanation and a variety in staging space of the Song Cycles would have been very beneficial and gone some way to stop the interludes from slowing the momentum of the evening. With minimal explanation of the works, only provided at the welcome to country style central field gathering, the inclusion feels more like lip service to the history rather than any real effort to share their stories.
Whilst THE ROYAL EDINBURGH MILITARY TATTOO SYDNEY 2019 has some issues in recreating the gradndeur of the original, it does go a way to give audiences a sense of the real thing and hopefully will inspire people to travel to Scotland to experience the event in the shadows of ancient castle. If the event is to return to Sydney, hopefully a more intimate space will be found to give a better sense of the work and allow a clearer storyline.