WAR SUM UP.
Directed by Kirsten Dehlholm. Music by the
Irrepressibles and Santa Ratniece with Gilbert Nouno and with the Latvian
Radio Choir. Hotel Pro Forma. OzAsia Festival. Dunstan Playhouse. November 5-6
2018 OzAsia Bookings
ozasiafestival.com.au or BASS on 131246
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Hotel Pro Forma’s War Sum Up at this year’s OzAsia Festival invades the mind,evokes the emotions and leaves the audience possessed by the sheer power of the choral music and striking impact of the visuals This powerful operatic requiem on war is adapted from three archetypal Noh Theatre plays, The Soldier, The Warrior and The Spy. The first of these tells of a soldier killed by a roadside bomb and honoured with a monument. In The Warrior, the soldier is killed in battle and returns as a ghost in his search for peace. The female spy is captured and escapes, only to return as a superwoman of the fantasy genre and Japanese pop culture. Imbued into this production is the graphic ingenuity of Manga and video art combining Japanese comic book drawing and video art.
Soprano,Ieva Ezeriete enters. Dressed in a yellow suit, she is today’s Gamemaster, taking us through the soldiers’ tales,her soaring song luring the audience into the mournful choral requiem. Slowly she turns the handle of her music box and shafts of light, spear-like, slide across the scrim. Behind, on two levels, we make out the figures of soldiers, almost androidal in their ghostly appearance, representing the soldiers of all time. “The battle is about to begin” appears on the surtitles. Under the baton of conductor Sigvards Klava, the Latvian Radio Choir chants the call of the fallen. As in a Greek tragedy, one member steps forward to lead the chorus in their song of experience. Tenor Aigars Reinis recounts the tale of The Soldier. The resonant bass voice of Gundars Dzilums delivers the forceful defiance of The Warrior and alto Ilze Berzina lends an elusive mystery to The Spy, the Mata Hari of war time espionage
The choral sounds of the Latvian Radio Choir echo through the memories of war, timeless in its conflict, devastating in its relentless destruction and scarred with the tragedy of loss. The poetry of the Noh text, rich in imagery and laden with simile and metaphor conjures the imagination. The choir is enveloped by the compelling visual design of the video technique. Magna art techniques morph body parts into the fearful weaponry of war and the symptoms of PTSD are projected onto the scrim. In The Warrior a thesaurus of “warrior” from insurgents to terrorists reminds us of causes beyond the experience of war.
Under the precise direction of performance artist Kirsten Dehlholm, the choir creates a sculptural collage of tableaus, still life, capturing images in classic frieze. Their movements along the platforms are slow and suspenseful, reminiscent of a Noh drama, infiltrating heart, mind and body. War Sum Up is the ultimate visceral experience, astounding in its evocative power to challenge perception and react to the inevitable futility of war. The operatic magnificence of the production transforms our appreciation of man’s inhumanity to man in Hotel Pro Forma’s unforgettable and haunting requiem.