PERTH Theatre Company is about to descend on us with “It’s Dark Outside”, created and performed by Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs and Tim Watts, who use puppetry and masks to create what they term, “a grand epic western about redemption and dementia”.
The score for the show has been composed by rock musician Rachael Dease, soloist in the “dirty” band Schvendes and composer of a music theatre work, “City of Shadows”, that has toured to the New York Fringe. Impressive, but she has pretty big shoes to fill.
For when it comes to composing big Westerns, there is one huge name, hovering over all young artists, that of the prolific Italian film composer, Ennio Morricone, best known for his scores to “A Fistful of Dollars” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.
“When I first came on board, the company had already used a lot of Ennio Morricone,” Dease tells me by phone from Perth.
“That was kind of scary, because he is one of the greats, so I had to figure out how to open up to what I do.”
One section, she admits, is “a straight homage to Morricone”, but the rest is all Dease.
The work, she explains, deals with memory loss and dementia, “it comes in and out of reality and fantasy and the music kind of narrates to the audience when we are”. Hired just three months before the show opened, there was a lot to do very quickly, she says, “but that’s the way I work, so that was that.”
The result, Dease tells “CityNews”, is one hour’s worth of “pretty substantial” music. While there is some wordless vocalising, most of the music is made on the electronic instrument the omnichord, though for the “large western-type moments”, she sourced live orchestral musicians.
Dease worries about “people suffering from sound fatigue”. With a lot of theatre, she suffers from “word fatigue” and tunes out.
“I guess my ears are tuned a bit differently… it’s important to challenge audiences without turning them off,” she says.
As for her burgeoning career, she gave up her day job about a year ago and survives as a musician and a part-time teacher at her alma mater, the WA Academy of Performing Arts. So far she hasn’t had to turn to doing toothpaste jingles, though she suspects she’d be “quite good at that”.
“I’m sort of spreading my fingers into a few pies,” she says.
“I go in between rock and pop style to larger scale theatre works. I’ve started to be recognised as a person who writes music for theatre, but I don’t think I’m ready to write a musical.”
“It’s Dark Outside”, The Street Theatre, June 3-8, bookings to 6247 1223 or thestreet.org.au