In these troubled times, when the world feels on the edge of war, Alice Oswald’s Memorial stands as an urgent call to attention. To reflect on the potential horror of conflict. To avoid a tragedy.
Out of the darkness, a vast field of bodies emerges. At the centre, a woman stands as storyteller; the voice and heart of a god, the elements, time itself, and of a thousand lives caught in war.
In this richly layered, epic theatrical experience, the legendary Helen Morse brings impassioned life to Oswald’s exquisite elegy for each of the 215 dead soldiers named in Homer’s Iliad. Golden Globe nominee Jocelyn Pook’s other-worldly score, performed by an extraordinary ensemble of international musicians, wraps around the work.
All the while, a 215-strong community chorus moves as a haunting and uplifting presence across the stage, which evolves from battlefield to meadow to starlit sky.
“The performance of Helen Morse in this production is simply extraordinary. She gives voice to the entire poem, demonstrating the reason she is one of Australia’s most acclaimed stage performers.” INDAILY
ARUGA CITIZEN REVIEW
Homer's Illiad is referred to as the 'goriest' of the ancient poems, in which Greek and Trojan warriors meet their fates in violent, bloody and graphic ways. Alice Oswald's Memorial is a visceral and faithful adaptation of the poem which has the oral history of the dead (or 'oral cemetery' in her words) at the moral centre of the work. Presented by Alice Oswald and Brink Productions, Memorial is one of the most stunning pieces of live theatre I have ever seen.
Chris Drummond translated Oswald's work in a powerful immensely theatrical journey; manifesting both the Gods and the ghosts on stage, conjuring up 'a living communion with our immortal selves'. It could not have been an easy task to do to solely working off a poem with line being open to a plethora of adaptations.
There are 215 actors on stage representing the fallen soldiers who are a continual presence on stage, transforming the landscape between each poem with their simplistic yet powerful movements. By having each actor is from the local community; it adds another deeper layer to the text and makes us reflect on not just our own humanity, but humanity as a whole.
Helen Morse is the storyteller and she is magnificent. Dressed in red robe, she is the immortal God that embodies all forty-two pages of the poem and how she managed to learn all of those lines is simply astounding. She transforms each line of the poem and makes each death different, making sure that they're each remembered for who they are and highlighting that each ghost was different. Through her voice, she showed us that we all have our own story and that none of us are the same, yet we are connected, even when we are disconnected from the world of the living.
Multi-award winning composer Jocelyn Pook's transcendent music takes you on an exquisite emotional journey from start to finish. She creates an aural landscape in which each note is filled with such intensity and precision that you can't help but get lost in the momentum. The live band are set high above the stage and look down on the performers, like Gods looking down on the mortals. They are exquisite; with Loni Fitzpatrick Kelly McCusker, Jonathon Peter Kenny, Melanie Pappenheim, Tanja Tzarvoska and Kieran Welch's vocals and seamless harmonies are filled with so much intensity and raw emotion. My favourite was Monique Clare (cellist) and Annie Silva (double bass), who combined created a haunting, mellow atmosphere to compliment the nature of the chorus on stage. Many band members played and sang at the same time, which was such a beautiful touch.
Yaron Lifchitz's choreography really demonstrated the power of simplicity and the notion of 'less means more' by having the ensemble create haunting landscapes through both their moving and still bodies, especially the moments in which Morse was trapped by the ghosts. The three principal dancers were a lonely addition to Morse's dialogue, who quite literally narrated the text.
Memorial is an exquisite deeply-moving emotional experience, that we are very lucky to have access to in our contemporary theatrical world.
Homer's epic poems about the Trojan War and the trip home after the War were oral traditions sung by the great artists of the day. It eventually necessitated the invention of the Greek Alphabet it is said so that they could be written down. In this epic tradition English poet Alice Oswald (b.1966) has written a huge work in homage to the fallen. In this case the deaths of all 251 soldiers mentioned by name in the Iliad are noted in a litany of the futility and barbarity of war. This Trojan War was over 3,200 years ago but on stage we do see a slouch hat in recognition of modern horrors. It is a memorial to them and like a modern memorial to great disasters all names are mentioned. It takes time and in fact it is an hour and forty-five minutes for Helen Morse to proclaim their names and their story. It is simply a Tour de Force performance by one of our great women on stage and screen.
The deaths are described in graphic and nauseating detail and the repetition of the cruelty is a point in itself. How many ways can a man die with sword and spear? The death involves the same thrusts, the same breaking of the body and skull but we do not learn and it just multiplies into obscenity.
The stories of the deaths reflect also on the families from which they came and the loss and anguish of those left behind, be they mothers, wives, brothers although in all likelihood brothers as well as fathers and sons would end up suffering the same fate.
Behind and above was the band who played beautifully with the rhythmic sounds of eastern, well east of the Mediterranean, sung in exotic chant and lamenting wail from the stunning singers. To this the 251 locals representing all manner of the common man presumed fallen or in this case more than 80 percent women they processed and interlocked and crowded in upon the praise singer. They danced in couples of every kind and there were young, old and diverse Brisbanites all over the full stage. The imagery was hypnotic. Great relief and a jewel in the tableau were the dancers, particularly Tobiah Booth-Remmers who stood out with spasmodic moves, a long spear and his racing against the slow tide of the populace singing on stage. He took on the role of Hector as he was dragged in his linen funeral cloth from the stage as one of the very few costumed intervals as most were barefoot faces in the crowd.
I found it was necessary to shift focus because of the length and this is not a problem because in this epic all the details are not necessary except as an overwhelming tragedy. You can listen to Helen Morse and her amazing voice and then pay attention to the singers or look into the faces of the crowd or be excited by the dancers. It is a meditation not a narrative. The tolling of the endless list of names and their fate is meant to be felt not memorised. In the end I cried.
Poet Alice Oswald
Concept Chris Drummond & Yaron Lifschitz
Composer Jocelyn Pook
Director Chris Drummond
Movement Yaron Lifschitz
Set Design Michael Hankin
Costumes Renate Henschke
Lighting Nigel Levings
Sound Jane Rossetto
Associate Director/Associate Movement Director Benjamin Knapton
Music Director Jonathan Peter Kenny
Producer Lee-Anne Donnolley (Far & Away Productions)
Actor Helen Morse
Cello Monique Clare
Harp, soprano Loni Fitzpatrick
Counter tenor Jonathan Peter Kenny
Clarinet, accordion Jarrod Linke
Violin, soprano Kelly McCusker
Mezzo soprano Melanie Pappenheim
Double bass Annie Silva
Oboe, shawm, recorders, gralla, Bulgarian singer Belinda Sykes
Macedonian singer Tanja Tzarovska
Viola Kieran Welch
Featuring Exaudi Australis and the Queensland Festival Chorus with the Vocal Manoeuvres Academy Youth Ensemble, singers from Cheap Trill and Access Arts.
Chorus Master Alison Rogers
Dancers Tobiah Booth-Remmers, Lina Limosani,
The Soldier Chorus
THE SOLDIER CHORUS
Rex Ablett, Coralie-Ann Airens-Wilmot, Gulnoza Akhmedova, Abigail Anderson, India Anderson, Melissa Anderson, Prudence Arango, Georgina Austin, Robert Baker, Ava Bampton, Sophie Bannister, Deborah Barrett, Peter Barrett, Emma Bell, Thea Biesheuvel, Isabella Bolton, Rance Boreham, Aleasha Bould, Anna Bowden, Stephen Brierley, Vivien Broadbent, Mary-Helen Buchan, Eulla Cadoo-Dagley, Niamh Cadoo-Dagley, Deborah Callaghan, Moana Campbell-Rogers, Vivian Cao, Aria Carlos, Zoe Carlos, Hannah Carpenter, Eve Carroll, Phoebe Carroll Campbell, Duane Cavanagh, Julie Chatel, Chelsea Chua, Jamie Coburn, Serena Coghlan, Nefeli Cook, Amy Cooker, Kay Cooper, Emmi Cosgrove, Raymond Cosgrove, Vicki Costantini, Lucinda Cowle, Chris Crane, Sharon Cross, Alana Cummins, Taylah Curtin, Emma Cutler, Taty da Silva Sodre, Caitlin Dacron, Phil Dahlenburg, Aarya Dath, Fiona David, Sherryn Davies, Jay Deagon, Bryce Delany, Caitlin Deuchars, Lynda Devitt, Jessica Dick, Katrina Drake, Jane Eastwood, Michelle Ebzery, Felix Egger, Hamish Elliot, Kelsey Ellen, Hannah Errey, Mary Evans, Georgia Fisher, Elizabeth Fitchett, Megan Fowler, Catherine Gilmour, Nicola Gray, Candice Green, Prarabdhi Gyawali, Marita Hanlon, Kerrie Harth, Erica Henderson, Giaan Hoffman, Rebecca Holdorf, Lucy Hood, Joshua Hughes, Emily Hunt, Amanda Hurley, Caitlin Hurtado, Beth Incognito, Ashley Joliffe, Kas Kastrissios, Stephanie Keay, Lisa Kibunja, Peter Krenske, Kalisi Latusela, Nigel Lau, Jessica Laughton Smith, Harry Lay, Sally Lee, Deborah Joy Leigh-Russell, Rebecca Lepahe, Isabella Lightfoot, Elizabeth Lim, Edie Linaker, Elizabeth Long, Sebastian Lonton, Vanessa Lonton, Skye Lyons, Anya MacDonald, Miranda MacDonald, Felicity MacKay, Nicole MacKay, Ella Macrokanis, Phoenix Macrokanis, Michael Maggs, Michelle Mai, Lubba Malecky, Alicia Marsden, Nikki Mau, Cameron McAndrew, Michael McCrystal, William McFarlane, John McGrath, Oliver McIntosh, Amber-Jane McMahon, Ian McWilliam, Luke Mears, Hunter Mills, Carys Moroney, Chloe Mudie, Hamish Mudie, Hugo Mudie, Andrew Neilson, Pierre Nicol, Alice Night, David Norton, Sierra Olave, Nerida O'Shea, Menita Overton, Bettina Partridge, Christopher Perlinski, Zak Phillips, Lesley Phillips, Charlotte Pilch, Catriona Pine, Maurice Peckman, Hannah Porritt, Hadeed Pourshafighi, Yasmin Powell, Meryl Power, Rebekah Qleibo, Jay Radford, Catherine Ramsey, Bray Ritchie, Andrew Robinson, Jordan Robinson, Kate Robinson, Louise Robinson, Sally Robinson, Sophia Robinson, Moana Rogers, Nicholas Russell, Katelyn Ryan, Pauline Ryder-Smith, Polynn Salon, Adham Samman, Tanya Sarapa, Jeremy Saywell, Horst Schirra, Hugo Scott, Kaija Scott, Kristian Scott, Zoe Seeley, Michael Sepelini, Sally Shan, Robbie Sinclair, Priscilla Sizer, Riley Slatter, Caitlin Stark, Charlie Stewart, Jayden Stubbs, Katelyn Suschinsky, Mabel Tamone, Coralie Tapper, Vivienne Timmermans, Lauren Towns, Natasha Townson, Irene Tsai, Hessa Tukiauha, Ann Uldridge, Margaret Vellnagel, Aaliyah Villar, Paige Villar, Sascha Vosper, Wendy Wallin, Daniel Wang, Kate Watkins, Ripley Welsh, Gemma West, Alicia Whisson, Sophie Whitecross, Megan Winsen, Andre Wium, Dorothy Young, Samantha Young, Olivia Zhang, Jazz Zhou
This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Major Festivals Initiative in association with the Confederation of Australian International Arts Festival Inc., Adelaide Festival, Brisbane Festival and Melbourne Festival. This project has been supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund.
This project is assisted by Arts SA – Independent Makers and Presenters – Major Commissions Fund. This project is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WWI Centenary Art Commissions (UK) and the Barbican.
Preview - Fri 7 Sept 7.30pm
Brisbane Times Festival Conversations after performance - Sat 8 Sept 1.30pm
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