Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Painted Feet Orchestra Debut [*]

No idea what this is. The only promotional photo I could find
(Source: Anywhere Theatre Festival).
A highlight of Anywhere Theatre Festival, tonight was The Painted Feet Orchestra's debut concert. A new collective of incredibly talented performers, this dynamic concert featured pieces that ranged from klezmer to Mozart accompanied with multi-disciplinary elements including dance, live painting, and lighting. The Painted Feet Orchestra is incredibly versatile in their repertoire from performers of stunning talent.

The features of the evening were plentiful. After a dubious opening of clanging on pot planters featuring Elizabeth John (Rzewski's To the Earth), the supremely talented duo Imogen Eve Gilfedder-Cooney (violin) and Nils Hobiger (cello) play Handel/Halvorsen's Passacaglia with a beautiful and intoxicating fervour. Deanna Connelly (violin II) and Sophie Mathison (viola) make up the rest of the quartet for a breath-taking, violently romantic performance of Schostakovich's No. 10 which is accompanied by an evocative live painting by Gary Akin. Maxine Sutcliffe (bass) and Luke Cuerel (saxaphone) lead a homage to Jimi Hendrix, and the ensemble is complete when they're then joined on stage by Toby Gifford (clarinet) and Alexandra Chetter (flute) for an arrangement of Bulgar from Odessa, a Slavic folk tune which was a whirlwind of improvisation which brought the house down.

While the piece was an utterly stunning musical experience, I'd be hesitant to bill it as a great example of a theatrical one. I understand the necessity of tuning, but such meticulous procedures on stage really disrupted the flow of the performance. The whole intimacy of the evening was compromised by some dreadful buzz which hissed every time someone made a noise on stage (so pretty much the whole show). While the multi-disciplinary skills in the piece are visually appealing, they aren't really unified by a specific theme or vision and their inclusion feels pretty random. That's not to say that the elements are at all bad - the shadow projection of the Passacaglia with its simple contrast of hues was beautiful, and the live painting was stunning - it just felt that as a stand alone experience it's fine but in order to create something theatrically engaging the content needed a connection. Regardless, with some adjustment to enhancing transitions and given more attention to establishing an overall theme or thematic through-line, the experience could be totally enhanced.

Any misgivings are obliterated at the closing of the night, when the highlight of the evening is played. The custom arrangement of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major. Gilfedder-Cooney's arrangement is a revelation, a delightful and sophisticated adaptation that highlights the versatility and talent of every member of the ensemble and the audience responds with rapturous fervour (people actually leapt out of their seats to give a standing ovation).

The Painted Feet Orchestra's performance was inspiring. While the theatrical elements of the production were a little lacking, the incredible standard of performance and sensitivity of the musicianship from the collective were astounding, and the entire experience was utterly engaging. Too bad it was only for one night - make an effort to see The Painted Feet Orchestra if you hear they're around, as this evening was excellent.

The Painted Feet Orchestra performed on 17th of May, 2012 in the Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University, as a part of Anywhere Theatre Festival. Follow The Painted Feet Orchestra on Facebook.

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