Review By Lisa Lanzi
Being a reviewer has many privileges and I will be eternally grateful that my role this year allowed me to attend Requiem at The Adelaide Festival. There are a few standouts in my theatre-going life: William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, Human Requiem at the 2018 Adelaide Festival, Hofesh Shechter’s Grande Finale in 2019 and The Kronos Quartet performing Steve Reich’s Different Trains, among others. I can now happily add Requiem to that list.
Requiem is a co-production of Festival d’Aix-en-Provence with Adelaide Festival, Theater Basel, Wiener Festwochen and Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia and presented by Adelaide Festival in association with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Festival Centre. Original Stage Direction and Set, Costume and Lighting Design is by Romeo Castellucci and the Revival Director is Josie Daxter. This is a production that demands a great deal of its cast but they have all delivered exquisitely with talent and presence and most likely come away exhausted after each performance.
There are layers within the production that take us from the personal and private, to community and through to global human disquiet and despair. All these images are portrayed with subtlety and gravity. A lone Woman near the end of her life stands on stage (a solemn and mesmerising Chrissie Page) as the curtain rises watching a commercial current affairs programme and smoking.
The pared back Festival Theatre stage is impactful and deep darkness presses in on the woman’s last moments. The ethereal, distant singing delivered off-stage (Adelaide Chamber Singers plus State Opera Chorus) reaches the audience long before the ensemble emerge from the gloom surrounding the bed-become-coffin. Throughout the Mozart Mass the journey of the female traverses time in reverse as she morphs from crone to mother to maiden and finally infant and mention must be made of Jacinta Hriskin and Mietta Brookman taking on the other ages of the feminine with such grace and presence. The other narrative also concerns the engagement of community in mourning, their bonding through folk-like ritual, including a delicate maypole dance, and becoming one with the environment like a massive, doomed creature sinking then rising, defeated, from the damaged earth.
Another layer in itself is the lighting and design which dramatically links with and heightens the action on stage. Profoundly darkened states contrast with the bright white ‘box’ image of the central section - leaving me with the impression of a precious box-frame memorial mounted on a wall. Colour is then used in the form of sprayed paint and pigment thrown against a paper wall that is eventually torn down (covering the naked chorus) to expose the gloom once more. An extra sombre design element is the Atlas of Extinction comprising a series of projected words on the intact paper wall naming and venerating the plants, animals, rivers, peoples, religions, languages, architecture and more that are lost to us forever. As this rolling projection of typed words played on, a heaviness descended, matching the emphatic melancholy of the music.
Next to the poignant design, there is a sublime blend of voice, music, movement and theatre in Requiem. Siobhan Stagg (Soprano), Sara Mingardo (Alto), Martin Mitterrutzner (Tenor), David Greco (Bass) and astonishing young Luca Shin (Treble) all gave marvellous performances however, the Chorus also shone both in sound and as a cohesive ensemble. Not an easy accomplishment, all the singers (apart from Luca Shin) performed various levels of choreography while they vocalized. It was entirely impressive that the singing was so polished and beautiful alongside Evelin Facchini’s fitting choreography. In addition to the singing chorus and actors, dancers from Australian Dance Theatre and Adelaide College of the Arts joined the cast adding yet another layer of ‘colour’ to the action. The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra were provided a beautiful accompaniment to the whole with sensitive conducting from Rory Macdonald.
Mozart’s score (a commission he had accepted to top up the coffers) remained unfinished as he was close to death at the time of composition. Instructions for completion were given to his student Franz Xaver Süssmayr so that Mozart’s widow could claim the fee. Conductor Raphaël Pichon and director Romeo Castellucci worked together to connect and frame the music of this sacred mass by inserting other works within the programme by Mozart and others.
This work has been received well by Adelaide Festival audiences, although sadly many younger local performing artists have not been able to afford to attend. We are fortunate to witness such a remarkable production, its purity and simplicity, reverence and connection. There is a sense of sadness present as we ponder loss on many levels including the global significance of our troubled climate but the music and vocals soar and leave us with some hope for a brighter human future.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.