Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lost and found orchestra

Last week we went to see the Stomp Company's Lost and Found Orchestra at the Opera House. Having seen Stomp when it first came to Australia many years ago, we were looking forward to a really great, energetic performance. The newspaper reviewer, however, had expressed disappointment, stating that they had lost their edge and tried too hard to reproduce traditional music with instruments that were, although made from found objects, far too "constructed" for the reviewer's liking.
The Dude, Ms Nominative Determinism, His Dagginess and I all came to the conclusion that the reviewer was just trying to reproduce the feeling of the first Stomp experience, when it was raw and new and hadn't been used to advertise everything from office stationery to food. Ten or more years on, the Stomp Company should have moved on from its starting point, and it has. The reviewer in the SMH obviously missed the word "Orchestra" in the show's title. It was a true orchestra, with kettle drums made of metal barrels and a xylophone made of beer bottles. The music was haunting and ethereal and the tunes were recognisable, if slightly twisted by the use of saws and bedsprings instead of violins and harps.
One other interesting thing about the performance was the audience (or "crowd", in His Dagginess' terminology, which might actually have been a more accurate description in some ways) that it brought to the Opera House. Despite the signs in the foyer, at the doors and the warnings on the back of the tickets themselves that "photographic and audiovisual recording equipment are not permitted", while we were waiting for the show to start, a single camera flash went off. It was followed within a few seconds by several more, until the entire auditorium was lit up with what seemed like hundreds of camera flashes -- looking like the Harbour Bridge on New Year's Eve. It was like a chain reaction. The poor ushers, trying to inspect tickets at the door, would occasionally make forays to the nearest camera flash with instructions to desist, but they couldn't keep up.
My first thought was quite snobbish: "This would never happen at the opera"! But it also made me realise that I was almost taking my privileges for granted -- the fact that I do attend performances at the Opera House on a regular basis means that a) I am well aware that taking photographs is not permitted and b) it's such a regular occurrence for me that it's not even something I'd think of wanting to record for posterity in a photograph. Obviously, there were a lot of people in the audience that night for whom a performance at the Opera House was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that needed to be memorialised.
The other thought I had, that always bugs me about people using flash photography in large arenas, is that in this day of instantaneous results through digital photography, people still don't get it that a flash photograph in a dark space is only going to illuminate the back of the heads of the people in the next few rows!
Anyway, fortunately only two or three dimwits tried to take photos after the performers came out on stage, and the ushers, now relieved of their ticket-checking duties, pounced on them quick-smart. And a good time was had by all.

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