Review By Louisa Polson A science fiction musical is not a genre of theatre that I am that familiar with. To my knowledge I can’t quite think of many (or any) musicals that stray too far into the realm of science fiction. Therefore, I didn’t know quite what to expect from this new piece of Australian theatre.
Metropolis is a new Australian musical telling of Thea von Harbou’s 1925 novel and Fritz Lang’s 1927 film of the same name. Set in a futuristic utopia, Metropolis depicts the story of the true dystopia that lies underneath. Freder (player by Tom Dawson) the son of the authoritative mastermind of Metropolis, Joh Fredersen (played by Joshua Robson) finds himself in unfamiliar territory while on a pursuit to uncover the whereabouts of his new love interest, Maria, a leading underground worker (played by Shannen Alyce Quan). The collision of these two worlds’ sees the utopia and dystopia spiral into chaos, and the destruction that ensues becomes catastrophic.
The play does not waste any time getting bogged down in layers of complexity, that can sometimes weigh down stories of science fiction. The story is communicated with a sense of, “urgency” as described by the Director, Julia Robertson. The audience is given enough credit to carry out their own interpretation of events as the utopian/dystopian world on stage reflects ideas and events that are that is not too dissimilar to our own reality.
From the first five minutes of the piece starting, I could sense that this was going to be a high-quality piece of theatre. Watching it in a moderately small and intimate setting, makes you feel as if you are part of a privileged few, as it is deserving of a much larger spectatorship than the theatre can accommodate. Immediately you are introduced to the underground workers as they move about to conduct their daily duties. While ‘Metropolis’ is set in the “future”, the costuming and set design have an art deco flare that pays homage to the period from which this piece was originally inspired. Elements of glamour shine through the set with dazzling rows and rows of theatrical light globes and intricate metallic detailing which outline the façade of the stage and extend the feeling of the period outward to the audience. Echoing the sentiment by letting you question, how can something so spectacular and glitzy be so bad?
True heart within this piece shines through the music and songs which draw out an emotional reaction of compassion for the hardship that is being portrayed on stage. Songs such as ‘My eyes are burning’ and ‘The heart machine’ sung by Freder (played by Tom Dawson) and Grot (played by Jim Williams) respectively provide moments of connection with different individual’s turmoil. The quality of the music is as composer Zara Stanton states is filled with, ‘dense choral harmonies and quasi-operatic moments’ that both drive the show and assist the audience to reactive to the gravity of the situation.
There is so much talent and variety of artistry that flows beyond the bounds of the stage. The combination of such highly skilled artists that have been chosen to tell this story are so well balanced, it is difficult to not be in awe the entire time. Metropolis is an intricate melting pot with elements of puppetry, movement, drama, and song which move you through a provoking narrative. A show as good as this is not to be missed, magnificent.
Image Credit: Grant Leslie