One of the many great things about the Brisbane Anywhere Festival is it attracts talented and enthusiastic performers from interstate. Private Moments: A Double Bill brings two 50-minute solo shows (written and performed by Melbourne residents) to the quirky Southside Tea Rooms.
Pop over to Morningside to see two shows ‘for the price of one.’ An opportunity to engage with the work of two talented and enthusiastic authors/actors/singers in an intimate performance space. In Private Moments the audience have the best of both worlds: two different shows drawing on personal histories and aspirations which address common themes of love, loss, romance and reality through music, drama and comedy. Two twenty-something romantics looking for love: one in real-time, looking forward, and the other in the present, looking back. Sarah Clarke (in Semi Charmed) locates her story in the present—introducing us to 50 minutes in the life of Daphne as she looks ahead to a first date. In contrast, in Buried At Sea, Mark Salvestro explores fragments of his great-great uncle’s final years—looking back over his own investigations into his family story and comparing his own experience with that of his ancestor. Anyone who has loved and lost, has wanted to know more about the lives of the men who left Australia to fight in the Great War (and the women they left behind), or is currently looking for romance, should go and see Private Moments.
Semi Charmed is set in Daphne’s bedroom. The love of her life has left (‘I didn't see the end until it was already over’), and she is taking tentative steps toward finding a new soul-mate. A budding author, Daphne works in a book-store—and it appears that she is spending a lot of her time in the romance section. Having ‘met’ the new David through Tinder, she is gearing up for their first encounter: telling her mum, selecting the right outfit, and researching tips as to what to expect. As a ‘fly-on-the-wall we have a chance to hear her hopes and dreams, listen to the development of her ‘romance’ with David “one button at a time,” and enjoy a range of musical interjections. The show is a funny, revealing, and quite touching portrayal—illustrated with a number of very well-chosen songs (Director Emily Joy, Musical Director Janine Atwill). I particularly enjoyed ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’, and I am sure every woman in the room laughed as they recognized their own attempts to fit into the ‘right’ outfit. The comic-timing was perfect and the writing spot-on.
In Buried At Sea (Director Phoebe Ann Taylor), we journey with the playwright, Mark (Mark Salvestro), as he both travels back in time, and within Australia, to discover more about the romance between Ruby and his great-great uncle George. Inspired by a family portrait of George—who died at sea, on his return home to Australia after fighting in Gallipoli—Mark’s journey leads him to reflect on his own life, and the challenges of finding love. Having asked ‘who else is going to tell this story, in Buried at Sea Mark shares confidences and fears with his ancestor (‘I’m lonely George). He also discovers the anguish and loss experienced by George, portrayed through the letters and ‘voice’ of his imagined ancestor. As he comes to feel closer to George, the work becomes ‘a real collaboration’ and an all-consuming pre-occupation (‘I can’t stop thinking about you George’). Buried at Sea also includes a number of musical numbers (with the support of piano accompanist Joseph Durcau), where Salvestro charmed his audience with a number of songs (I particularly enjoyed ‘Honey Dear’). By the end of play, Mark reflects on the loss of George at only 22, and starts to look ahead to all the ‘work [he has] to do’.
There are many simple comparisons to be made: 2 one-act solo shows written, sung and performed by 2 drama school graduates. 2 stories of personal exploration which touch on issues of love and romance, dating and loss, the traditional and modern, the spoken and sung word. 2 talented young playwrights who combine songs with their words and acting skills to create believable characters in an intimate setting. Go along while you can. It’s great value.
Verdict: Compelling (AND it’s effectively two for the price of one. Only $20 to see two plays!)
Audience tip: Pop into the neighbouring Death Valley bar for a drink before the show. Near to bus stop and lots of street parking right outside this Morningside location.
The reviewer attended the Thursday 19th May performance of Private Moments: A Double Bill (Semi Charmed & Buried At Sea). The shows end on 22nd May 2016 (only three performances remaining— 20th, 21st and 22nd). Tickets are available at the Anywhere Festival website or on the door.