Review by Lauren Donikian
At some point in your life, you have caught a train, but what happens when that train is delayed? Track Works explores what happens during this time by telling the tale of 5 people stuck on platform one.
This site-specific pastiche opera is held in a location in Sydney that not many people get access to. Mortuary Station, which has been standing for more than 150 years and was created as a starting point for funeral trains, fortunately it has sprung back to life with this production of Track Works. Produced by BBT, a production company that works with emerging artists to tell their stories is no stranger to site-specific performances having previously produced Chamber Pot Opera. Written by Artistic Director of BBT Thomas De Angelis, this opera takes some of the most well-known operatic songs and twists them to include current terms which are suitable for the time and situation.
Taking place on the platform of the station, not much is needed to dress the set. A few benches and some pot plants are placed around, but the signage is original. With a bathroom, waiting room at room for the station master, all of which are used throughout this opera. There are four single standing lights that are placed on the other side of the tracks which help to illuminate the space and create an atmosphere that enhances the feeling of each character’s tale. Purple lighting for emotional or revealing songs like ‘Song to the moon’ performed by Sophie Mohler and orange lighting when the cast are performing together in songs like ‘O Fortuna’ and ‘Justice’. Director, Clemence Williams allows this cast to use the whole platform to add more details to this story. From distance at the beginning, like on all public transport no one really wants to sit next to anyone anymore, to all of them walking in individually the audience understands that these people are all strangers, or don’t know each other well. Even the space between the audience and cast is shortened as the opera plays out. We get a strong sense of who these characters are through their stance, facial expressions, and relationship with other characters, and they are relatable as we have all seen them on a platform before.
Lily Harper, Eden Shifroni, Sophie Mohler, Anastasia Gall, and Michael Kaufmann make up this cast, with Lily and Eden cast as students that can only be described as the epitome of private school girls, I was one – I can say it. Anastasia Gall as an overworked lawyer, Sophie Mohler as a homeless artist and Micheal Kaufmann as the station master who loves his job. Their voices harmonize together beautifully, and each are strong performers. The night I was there they had to battle with a storm, but I can safely say that their voices were hauntingly beautiful over the top of it. The big draw for me was being able to see an iconic part of Sydney, but sitting on the platform and waiting for a train and people watching is something I do every day. It felt natural to be in that space, although these people are sharing their stories it didn’t feel like I was intruding or excluded. Just another person on the platform. I really enjoyed this opera, the atmosphere and warmth that the cast brought really did bring the Mortuary Station back to life.