Warm lows and sweet highs provide emotional power

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“Songs and Sonnets” cast.

Lakespeare & Co’s “Songs and Sonnets”, Pialligo Estate Winery, June 10-19. Reviewed by SIMONE PENKETHMAN.

THIS locally developed musical and poetic performance features a cast of four and is now in its third iteration as a dinner show at Pialligo Estate.

In the glasshouse, a large, enclosed and (thankfully) heated space, the beautiful, natural sounds of music made by human bodies and wooden instruments are a luxury in an era of live-streaming and electronic production.

Composer, singer and instrumentalist, Jay Cameron is one of a rare breed who can express himself equally well on piano and guitar. His single-instrument accompaniments are a highlight of the show, which is an eclectic mix of musical theatre songs and Shakespeare’s sonnets.

The repertoire includes songs by well-known composers, from Stephen Sondheim to Taylor Swift. Much of the material is new and original compositions by Jay Cameron, whose work holds its own beside the more well-known numbers.

Cameron’s complex vocal arrangements are well executed by the accomplished cast with moments of spine-tingling dissonance. Helen McFarlane’s warm lows, Katerina Smalley’s sweet highs, David Pearson’s rich baritone and Jay Cameron’s unaffected singing style blend and contrast to provide continuous interest and emotional power.

For such an event as this, the timing, presentation and taste of the food is as important to the experience as the artistry and production of the performance. In this case, the well-timed service was like clockwork. The two sets of music and poetry were bracketed by entrée, main course and dessert. Our stay of more than three hours passed easily and with great sensual enjoyment.

The performers make good use of the space, moving around the room and between tables, allowing the audience to feel enveloped by the drama of song narratives. Spoken sonnets with expressive musical backing punctuate the show, with some poems evolving into songs.

At times there was thematic resonance between the centuries-old poetry and more modern musical theatre numbers; but at other moments the sonnets seemed incongruous. There is no director credited for this show and a stronger directorial vision may have realised a more successful integration of the two forms.

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