Review of “Meletes Practice”

by forestcollective

Monday, April 18, 2011
Forest Collective 2011 Concert Series: Meletes Concert Gala Review
Forest Collective Meletes Concert

There are pale faces calling through barred windows to the cold of Little Smith St. They cradle lights in jars and laugh with the mania of the enclosed. Above the entrance to the door of their performance space is a sprig of green. This being in delightful juxtaposition to both the malady in the windows and the white graffiti of the lane and proved an apt introduction to the first of the Forest Collective concert series for 2011. The variety and layers of the performances delivered overall an intriguing evening.

The opening number was A Winter’s Tale conducted and composed by Artistic Director Evan Lawson. Resplendent in black, red and gold the company performed short interpretations of scenes from Shakespeare’s play. Bach Collage performed by the same company was an interesting idea, taking classical music and reinterpreting phrases in a dynamic way. Rather than becoming an elaborate mess, the result was quite beautiful and delicate at times. It was especially fun to watch the responses of the musicians to the conductor as he directed them. It is testament to the music however that closing ones eyes did not diminish the beauty of the work.

The Occasional String Quartet was an absolute pleasure. As someone who is a little suspicious of violins it was a revelation. The harmonies of the smaller strings with the cello were beautiful and there was a layered complexity to the arrangements. On swivel office chairs the musicians danced; they swept; they popped and they caressed Ravel.

Working with the music in this section were two performers. Dressed in grey, they were often mesmerising in their accompanying movements – I will defy anyone who disagrees that shoulders are not the most expressive body parts. At first the dancers manipulated the musicians, leading them around the space on the chairs but as the music progressed to the next piece it became clear that it was the music controlling their movements all along. The movements however remained integral and part of the performance rather then just a response.

The exhilaration and clear enjoyment of the performance of the Occasional String Quartet was a highlight of the evening. They demonstrated considerable creativity and flare and a willingness to challenge themselves as musicians/dancers. Here’s to hoping they perform less occasionally and more often!

For interval the audience was hoarded into an incongruously spacious bar. Upon returning, the music formalities of the stage had been cleared and we were drawn into a chaotic world of Mask of Red Death. This was an ensemble experimental theatre work playing with improvisation within the grotesque. Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story it was directed by Danielle Asciak and performed by actors who seemed to be having a wonderful time exploring the playful side of madness.

There was chaos and a spinning world of wine and candle light. Amid this frenzy there was no space left for subtlety and pause. The intensity of the performance was always at a high level. This was compounded by the remnants of the band music coming through from the bar. Whilst, it did not impede too much it certainly kept up the tumultuous pace. Silence is important though in creating both pacing and narrative and perhaps a certain subtly and shift in gears would have allowed more poignancy. It was also a shame that the harp and other accompanying instruments were not easily heard during this part of the peformance performance. In a shadowed gloom where candlelight was so important, light and shade for the ears would have been a welcome addition.

We were introduced to the space at the start of the evening as a converting performance space. This was positive as it allowed Forest Collective to play with some very effective writing on the walls, but the noise interference was not ideal. The Meletes evening was packed in both content and audience. For future performances it might be worth tailoring the size of the space to the expected turnout, although perhaps it was unprecedented. If so it was well deserved rewarding surprise for the organisers and production crew as well as all the performers. Having said that, it was also quite nice to bundle up tight together in our coats and share the bond that comes with falling into a world of chaos through a graffitied door framed with forest.

Tilly Lunken