A new stage adaptation of the 1928 classic narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March.
Adaption, direction and design by Pauline Wright.
Musical Direction by Jiri Kripac
Performed by Pauline Wright and Joe Woodward
Musicians: Jiri Kripac and David Bates
The Famous Spiegel Gardens, Senate Rose Garden, Canberra
16th March 2013
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
First published in 1928, this long Jazz Age narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March was originally banned in Boston because of its risqué content. Its violent story of a vaudeville dancer who throws booze and sex fuelled party quickly achieved popular success however and was made into a film in 1975, and formed the basis of two musicals.
Both musicals were presented in New York in 2000. The version composed by Michael John La Chiusa was presented on Broadway, and the other composed by Andrew Lippa, (whose musical “The Adams Family” opens in Sydney this week), was presented off Broadway. A concert version of the Andrew Lippa musical was presented at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in 2005 with a cast which included Simon Burke, Sharon Millerchip, David Harris, Chelsea Gibb and Eddie Perfect.
What better venue then, in which to present Pauline Wright’s new adaptation of the original poem for which Jiri Kripac has written an original score, than the deliciously decadent atmosphere of the 1920’s Belgian spiegletent,
The presentation was as simple as it was sophisticated. Just two musicians, David Bates on piano and Jiri Kripac on trumpet and two actors, Pauline Wright and Joe Woodward, and a stage dressed with two gold antique chairs, separated by a small antique table holding a glowing lamp ,a bottle of champagne and two glasses.
After an appropriately bluesy overture, Wright and Woodward each sing a song which sets the context and mood before both sit on the chairs to read the rest of the poem. They read, rather incongruously, from hand-held electronic readers. Convenient perhaps, but somewhat at odds with the otherwise carefully evoked period atmosphere.
The static presentation placed the emphasis very much on Joseph Moncure March’s extraordinary writing and Wright and Woodward, both skilled actors and storytellers, drew on their formidable vocal skills to invest the protagonists and the many lesser participants with a variety of accents and personalities. They wisely relied on Moncure March’s idiosyncratic and evocative words, enhanced by Kripac’s evocative music, to do the rest. Very soon the willing audience found themselves inexorably drawn into the seductive world of prohibition, decadence, drugs, booze and sex.
Despite the interval, which rather broke the spell, and the unfortunate competition from Skyfire towards the end of the performance, this delightful presentation of “The Wild Party” proved to be a memorable experience as captivating for the uniqueness of its spiegletent presentation, as for the opportunity it provided to engage with one of the more provocative and celebrated poems of the twentieth century.