Definite sense of community in this nine cast member performance that ultimately hails singing.
Victoria Dixon, left, Steven Hounsome, Briana Dunn, Callum Yardley, Daniel Wilson, Valerie Henry, Susan Veart, Elouise Martin and Karl van Zwol in The Mozart Faction presented by Melville Theatre Company.
The Mozart Faction is directed by Siobhan O’Gara who has had a 20 year history in Perth’s community theatre but this marks her first occasion working with the Melville Theatre Company. She was asked for a locally written play and recalled seeing The Mozart Faction put on by Red Ryder Productions and written by Kate Rice at the Blue Room Theatre 10 years ago. Rice trained at VCA and studied playwriting at NIDA. Having not seen the original production there are no comparisons to make however the original did win the Blue Room People’s Choice award in 2007.
The premise of the play is that the neighbour is sick of the community choir singing next to him for the past 10 years and storms in threatening them with a gun. The siege concludes with a slightly more focused (hence better and more in tune) version of Mozart’s ‘Requiem’, the one he supposedly composed in anticipation of his own death. As one choir member puts it ‘The choir is a Mozart Faction and like labour voters, a doomsday cult’.
The acting was moderately good and the nine member cast work well together, as you might expect with an amateur theatre group – but some individual wooden performances did impact the overall flow. There did not seem to be quite enough action for the a full cast of nine; so ‘pauses’ such as a tea break in the midst of a gun stand-off seem a little contrived, none more so than when making awkward social conversation with the bloke who had just been threatening you with a gun –but this may mark the play as a parlour farce.
Light and sound design was by Lars Jensen and the stage was bare with unpainted props, ladders and plastic chairs all placed randomly to denote the rehearsal (usually unseen) space.
Steven Hounsome as Wolf the irate neighbour is quite riveting, but I suspect we were constantly waiting for the next set of swear words to come out of his mouth (that seem to characterise his more bogan portrayal) which somewhat distract from his more genuine stage presence. Several of the other cast members are memorable; Susan Veart for her professional singing and of course she is cast as the Prima Dona soprano Anne Marie which didn’t seem such a great stretch. Valerie Henry as Shirl the choir organiser/cup of tea maker/put upon background worker showed the longevity of her involvement with the Company with being so convincing in the role. Daniel Wilson as Morris, the sought after tenor was both tender and amusing in his acting. The amateur choir beset by all the petty politics of humans getting together in a group with the ‘steppers and the stepped-on’ was totally convincing. But it felt like more could have been made of that in the build-up before the gunman. The arrival of the dissenter, Hounsome as Wolf, waving a gun around and making threats felt too sudden. The pressure was ramped up immediately and perhaps better pacing in the writing would have stretched this moment out to create more of a mystery play.
Good musical direction by Janice Miller-Eves ensures that we get both the out of tune dispirited singing through to the full anguish of the ‘Lachrymose’ in the final moments, suddenly more a thing of beauty. The writing illustrated the argument for being a lover of classical music (‘in my day you were sat down until you liked it’) to a type of class struggle about what musical choices you like. There were indications of the community choir taking the place of family connections as those structures become less firm in all our communities. The insight this play offers is being privy to the passions of suburban people involved in music-making who may also incite others to take drastic action in their dislike of the artform.
The central idea that beautiful music can convince even the most hardened rock music cynic is a good one as our ordinary choir sing their hearts out in ‘Lachrymose’. Like the ‘doomsday cult’ wit, there were a couple of funny references.
The cliché that music is 'pure' is mentioned, but like any art form it is subjective, and Wolf’s belief in the rock chant ‘Evie’ condemns this choir to a siege and ends up with him demanding that they forsake all singing – certainly the harshest punishment any of us wish to endure.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
The Mozart Faction
Directed by Siobhan O’Gara
Written by Kate Rice
Performed by Valerie Henry, Victoria Dixon, Briana Dunn, Elouise Martin, Callum Yardley, Karl van Zwol, Daniel Wilson, Susan Veart and Steven Hounsome.
Music Direction by Janice Miller-Eves
Light and Sound Design by Lars Jensen
Melville Theatre Company, 393A Canning Highway, Palmyra at 8.00pm. 8th and 13th – 15th, 20th – 22nd April 2017
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What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level