Review by James Mukheibir
Theatre was never meant to be viewed from behind a screen. Despite this, Symphonie Fantastique provides a Wonderland-esque rabbit hole for adventurers to dive into and be engulfed by a world of brilliant colour and vivid sound. It is the perfect dose of beautiful, surreal escapism for anyone drowning in the mundanity of a COVID lockdowns and restrictions.
Symphonie Fantastique is a dreamlike devised piece of ensemble performance art created by Little Eggs Collective during their 2020 KXT bAKEHOUSE residency, and recorded as part of their run at Kings Cross Theatre. This recording along with a Q&A with the cast and crew has been released for virtual viewing as part of the online Sydney Fringe Festival 2021.
The show embodies the emotional ebb and flow of its namesake, and captures the essence of how it feels to have an orchestral symphony wash over you. It is a romantic epic that is embodied by the energetic harmony of the ensemble, with the flawless choreography and musical direction elevating this vibrant production into an ethereal realm, along with the transcendental, kaleidoscopic lighting design by Benjamin Brockman. The simple set is transformed as we are transported through scenes that feel like a dream that your therapist would have a field day with. Each moment imbued with significance and meaning, all deftly curated by our guides into a dark contemporary exploration of party-culture, psychedelia, violence and obsession.
The sound design and music direction by Oliver Shermacher was excellent, with swirling classical harmonies giving way to throbbing synths to give the performance a heartbeat and a language. The performers almost entirely communicate through poignant non-verbal singing, which gives soul, emotion and humanity to every interaction between the strange characters we encounter on our journey through the Symphony, and manages to keep the audience fully engaged while moving through light-hearted comedy and confronting violence. The recording is solid and the sound carries over well.
The opening scene stands out as particularly beautiful as the acapella harmonies are passed between the performers as they build out scenes with only their bodies. It was a uniquely impactful demonstration of non-digital humanness that feels rare today, bodies and voices occupying a space. While I was observing through a screen, I was captivated by the beauty of human harmony, somewhat released from the ongoing toll of working from home, zoom calls and alienation from social settings that so many face across Australia.
Symphonie Fantastique is a triumph of physical theatre, with the organic energy unique to devised work that overcomes the barriers of recorded theatre and I believe this production can win over even the most staunch theatre purist. All involved deserve congratulations for creating a magical performance, and I hope to see more from Little Eggs Collective in person very soon.