Music / “Mind over Matter”, The Song Company. At The Street Theatre, Canberra, August 23. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY
WAS it a play, a musical, the theatre of the absurd or a surrealist mashup of music from the 1980s with a story that was almost impossible to fathom? Whatever it was, the singing brought it all together.
Pushing their own boundaries, which are far and wide, The Song Company brought a somewhat futuristic metamorphosis of musical styles together for its latest show, “Mind over Matter”. They describe it as “a zany comedy surrounded by vocal arrangements of 1980s pop hits”.
The performers/singers were, Anna Sandström, Pip Dracakis, Maximilian Riebl, Ethan Taylor, Nathan Lay, Maggie Chen and Antony Pitts who wrote the musical, sang, directed and played the piano.
The glittering and multi-coloured clothes matched the eclectic music and story. Antony Pitts who was in all white, his suit, shoes, hair, and make-up made him look a bit like a ghost as he sang, swayed and directed the singers in the opening popular hits.
“Steppin’ Out”, by Joe Jackson began the show, then a personal favourite of this reviewer, “Take on Me” by the much-underrated Norwegian group “a-ha” and then “Mad World” by Tears for Fears, all sung in a Song Company style. And, yes, they have their own style, which is a beauty.
In fine countertenor voice, Riebl in his first appearance with The Song Company, played the part of Professor Karl Rime. He performed a haunting version of “Running up that Hill”, by Kate Bush. He captured the strength and passion of the song even though it didn’t have that pulsating thump of the drums that fills the original version.
A solo work from Pitts on piano came next and what context it had to the show remained a mystery. Even though it was played with fire and had virtuosic moments, it seemed a bit of an add on.
There was a lot in this show. Such as sections of body clapping, twirling at twisting stage props, streamers, smoke and colourful stage lights. They all added to the surreal context.
Essentially a comic opera, it’s a play that takes place centred around two elevator lifts on either side of the stage where occupants travelled to some place for some reason.
The players were convincing, and all acted well and with conviction, but the singing was the star of the show. Maybe it would have gelled better if the ’80s songs weren’t in the production, but who doesn’t love ’80s music?
This is a 75-minute entertaining and singable show with good production values and unique tonal music from Pitts. It’s also a show that any Dadaist would adore.