|Ensemble of 'Still We Rise.'
Produced by the Australian Vocal Collective
Written and Directed by Paul Bissett and Rachel Campbell
Composer-in-Residence: Chloe Sinclair
Ralph Wilson Theatre, 9 & 10 November
Review by Phillip Mackenzie
THERE are some new kids on the block, and if their first project – 'Still, we rise' written and directed by Paul Bissett and Rachael Campbell – is anything to go by, the rest of Canberra's 'youth theatre' community will do well to take notice.
This hour-long work is an amalgam of protest, hope, and inspirational music, song, poetry, choreography and imagery resonant of the very contemporary messages we are hearing from the likes of Greta Thunberg, kicked off from the archives by Maya Angelou's extraordinary recitation of the eponymous title of this performance, but going back to Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Isaac Newton, Nelson Mandela, Jacinda Ardern, to name a few of those who have had something cautionary to say to our political leaders, ideologues and dictators, none of whom emerge with any dignity.
The dozen or so young performers have been very effectively, if simply, organised vocally and choreographically to carry the over-riding message : 'listen to us, before it's too late'. The show is replete with some profound ideas and concludes on a note of hope which may or may not be justified, depending on your cynicism quotient. Even if the latter is high, one must respect the sense of hope on which keeps this work afloat.
The intelligent musical basis is a mash-up of classical 'Dylan-era' protest and original material, utilising some talented solo voices which add spice to the choral segments and the simple choreography which supports the episodic structure of the material and a stunning line-up of still and video projections. Most impressive in the latter was the footage of mass automatism, from Fritz Lang's 1927 black-and-white classic Metropolis behind the mimed version presented by the live cast.
Perhaps this show was a little longer than necessary, and perhaps there were one or two dramaturgical lapses, (albeit, fewer than one might expect from comparable youth productions)and maybe the earnest messages could have been leavened with a dash of humour but, overall, the best was made of the resources to create a product worthy of wider exposure.