Saturday 13 July
In Shared Lines an itinerant spectacle of theatre, sculpture and music unfolds beneath the stained glass of the Rosina Auditorium. Hidden deep within the Abbotsford Convent, the hall’s art deco proscenium arch frames the proceedings like a portal into another time, a time of dance halls and dusty boarding school assemblies. The connotations are not lost on the musicians dressed with Vaudeville flair, much less the schoolgirls, maid and eccentric master of the house of Fixation, a physical theatre piece woven through and bleeding into the musical fabric of the night.
Upon entering the hall one is confronted with a pergola of cupboardry by artist Isabelle Rudolph, a musical ensemble tucked away next to a wall and an impossibly small square of seating in the centre of the room. The seating is more a provocation than an amenity, facing away from the musicians and providing an ideal view for only about five minutes of the entire performance.
It would have been a shame to have heard Rosemary Ball’s enchanting rendition of Liszt’s Oh quand je dors with only one ear, so I hovered near Rudolph’s comforting structure of wood and paint. A maid entered the stage and began miming hanging up laundry surrounded by glowing firefly puppets. The ensemble quietly repeated fragments of Oh quand je dors, this time interspersed with whispers and rattles from the string and wind instruments. Directed by Stephanie Osztreicher—freshly returned from a spell at the École International de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq—, Fixation is a tumble of action, humour and drama centred around an extract from Don Marquis’ Conversation with a Moth (powerfully delivered by Scott Jackson, especially so because we were a metre away from him at the time). The performance also served to lead the audience around the space and direct them towards Pandora, an installation by Robbie James and Ben Delves where the audience modifies the visual representation of improvisations on shakuhachi, flute and guitar by passing around an ominous wooden box. Don’t look inside!
A series of solo performances scattered the audience throughout the hall. I particularly enjoyed hearing the melodic sweeps of Chris Rechner’s Stem for clarinet (sensitively performed by Vilan Mai) from the back of the hall and Britten’s Metamorphosen for oboe (programmatically an ideal piece for the space and playfully realised by Katia Lenzi) at close range. The concert was also an opportunity to hear Jessica Fotinos’ virtuosic performance of George Enescu’s Allegro de Concert for the slightly terrifying chromatic harp, all the more so because she had to make do with the garden variety pedal harp. Katriona Tsyrlin brought out the introverted intensity of Evan Lawson’s Keys and Locks, a remarkable solo piece that contrasts well with the composer’s ensemble extravagances.
As a curator Lawson is to be commended for coaxing the audience into participation by making it ever harder for them to experience the performance without moving, a dynamic culminating in multiple performances in multiple rooms. Concert curators desiring audience members to move about the space (a desire usually expressed in a hasty mumble at the start of the concert) would do well to take note.