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Exquisitely sung, engagingly acted, here is a comically realised Song Company performance of a rehearsal that feels both real and fantastical. It’s replete with interrupted songs, aesthetic differences, indifferences (one singer reads a magazine while the others perform, a mobile phone takes over), the letting down of hair (literally), awe (all at one on a huge lounge, singing while bathed in golden light pouring through a church window), a sudden rapturous will to dance (hands raised like paws, legs prancing in unison), a nervy edge of danger (some recurrent gun business), comic turns (a la Mr Bean, alongside company jokes at their own expense) and an interplay of the singers both as themselves and fictions. Subjecting the 15-16th century Belgian composer Josquin Desprez to various stresses inflicted by physical and spatial demands wrought by director Nigel Kellaway is perfectly legitimate. Most of them are secular compositions about lost love and other grievings, some are remarkably existential, almost heretical. The singers might not talk sensibly about the songs, but their immersion in and commitment to them is palpable, conveying the everydayness of rehearsal and the magic of their art.

Although movement tests the perfection of the singing it amplifies the dramatic in the songs without any literalising, though some occasional connection between song and action might have been nice...or did I miss something? It’s a pity that the spoken dialogue is too often unwieldy, rendering the singers (whose physical presence is expertly and confidently framed and projected) sound unnecessarily awkward and sometimes downright quaint. Some rescripting, a more focussed sense of purpose (some routines seem surplus) and other economies, could make Little George (an affectionate diminutive for Desprez) a popular addition to the Song Company repertoire. The final image, of the company all in bed, one with gun in hand, is a reminder that even in the most genteel of arts, risk is a virtue. Little George is a risk worth taking.


The Song Company, Little George, devised by Nigel Kellaway, Anatoly Frusin & the Artists of the Song Company, musical director Roland Peelman, director Nigel Kellaway, lighting Neil Simpson, Paddington Uniting Church, February 7-10

RealTime issue #42 April-May 2001 pg. 39

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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