Catching up on events.

Last week I had a  trip to the Capitol Theatre in Sydney to see the musical Love Never Dies.

Firstly, the theatre.  I haven’t been there before and was thrilled with the sumptuous interior of the auditorium.  It is classed as an ‘atmospheric theatre’ and is the last remaining one in Australia – only 5 were ever built here.  The fascinating history, and uses of the building, can be read by clicking on the theatre name above and going to the About Us tab.

The feeling inside is quite intimate with a maximum seating of 2038 and we had excellent seats upstairs in the dress circle fourth row.

At this stage I should say that prior to going I had not heard a good word about Love Never Dies – the story was disjointed, there was no story, the continuity following on from Phantom wasn’t right, things didn’t gel, there were gaping holes in the very approximate theme, the music wasn’t great and so on.  So I was interested to judge for myself.

The first thing that hit me, and continued throughout, were the set designs.  Stunning.  Wonderful, wonderful work.  Complex stairways that could be moved into different formats, a huge archway that moved and turned and was used for many different scene interpretations, a truly amazing merry-go-round and some shimmering glass (looking) brightly lit columns with specimens inside.  The set designers should be proud of themselves.

I was interested in the costumes and at times there were some excellent ones, although parts of the show demanded a little less frill and fancy here and there.  The main peacock dress was beautiful and obviously had taken a lot of work along with the circus performers (or freak show performers, as you will).  These were highly coloured and a visual delight.

However, the story was weak and I thought most of the music uninspiring, dull and totally forgettable.  Surely there could never be a soundtrack released.

Overall the few hours there was enjoyable as I loved the theatre building itself, the architecture, the ambience, the sets and so on but I would have been happier to have got last minute seats at half the price.  In my view it just wasn’t worth the money we paid.

On Friday night we went to something that could not have been more different, the City Recital Hall, again in Sydney.  Wow, what a place.  Their website describes the venue, opened in 1999, as:

This finely tuned recital hall with a capacity of 1,238 seats has been designed for quality of sound, to enhance enjoyment of audiences, soloists, chamber ensembles, chamber orchestras, contemporary bands, popular musicians and the spoken word.

I have been to many events, in many venues, but I have never heard such clearcut and precise sound as in the Recital Hall.  The hall was full to capacity and during the concert not a person made a sound, not a cough, a sneeze, a rustle or a mobile phone (see, people really can switch the infernal things off for a few hours and the world doesn’t collapse!!!!).

We were privileged to hear the one and only Australian concert by the great Jane Birkin singing Serge Gainsbourg.  What a treat.  The stage was bare aside from her 4 musicians and herself.  All was black, the curtaining, the floor and the clothing of the band.  Jane herself was dressed in black trousers and a white shirt.  There were no visuals to detract from the music.

Although Jane is English by birth she has lived and worked in France for many, many years and has  been associated with Serge Gainsbourg since 1968.  Their personal relationship ended in 1980 but they continued to collaborate up to his death 20 years ago and the majority of his songs during this period were written for her.  Go to this link to listen to his most celebrated song in my view, Je T’aime,…Moi Non Plus.  It is reputedly the first song to feature an orgasm within its lyrics.  Don’t be put off, it’s beautiful – turn the volume up on your sound system, sit back and close your eyes and listen.  It is worth it, I promise.  Serge Gainsbourg was painter, actor, television personality, songwriter but most of all a poet.  He died of a heart attack in March 1991 and Francois Mitterrand said of him ‘He elevated the song to the level of art’.  He was a fascinating character who led a fascinating life.

Today Jane is in her sixties but still has a wonderful and quirky voice.  It was lovely to hear the familiar songs sung in her slightly breathless soft voice.  She remarked that it was the first time for her to have a drummer in her band on stage because her voice is so soft that usually they have to cover the drums with felt to soften the sound so her voice can be heard over them.

The audience was in large part French and they loved her.  She got 2 standing ovations at the end and was so gracious to the crowd and her support musicians, acknowledging everyone who came and breaking apart the enormous bouquet she was given after the finale to ensure her band each got some of the flowers.

Love Never Dies programme – PLAYBILL/SHOWBILL publications, Fox Studios Australia, Sydney, 2012.


About Claire B

I am a passionate printmaker, paper maker and book artist. I'm a 'forever' student and frequently attend courses and workshops to extend and improve my creative skills.
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