‘The Mozart Faction’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom.

by April 10, 2017

‘The Mozart Faction’ is a riveting, black comedy by an award-winning, local playwright Kate Rice. This play was first produced at the Blue Room Theatre in Perth ten years ago, when it won the theatre’s People’s Choice award. Kate and her husband Jeremy have both been big supporters of Community Theatre, and have acted as key judges at various competitions.

AWGIE winner, Kate Rice is at Curtin University completing her PhD, on ‘the ethics of creating theatre based on real stories’.

Both of Kate’s young daughters are also talented screen actors.

Make your way to the Melville Theatre on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway, Palmyra where the 75-minute performance (no interval) can be seen at 8.00 pm each Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until Saturday 22nd April.  There is a matinée on Sunday 9th April at 2.00 pm.

 

The scene is evening time in a Perth community hall. The stage is typical of a rehearsal area, with half-painted flats, a semicircle of plastic chairs and a trestle table for tea and coffee. Stage managed by Brenda Oliver-Harry. Barbara Lovell smoothly operated Lars Jensen’s light and sound design.

        Shirl (Valerie Henry), the mother figure of a small suburban choir, is laying out the coffee cups and awaiting the arrival of choir members. Two young girls, Val (Briana Dunn) and Sophie (Elouise Martin) are arguing over who is going to sit next to whom, when the choir mistress, Evie (Victoria Dixon)  arrives. She sternly tells them that there will be no moving around the group.

        Sophie is wrestling with her conductor’s music stand, when she demands that the group’s young tearaway, Ari (Callum Yardley) help her out. The score folders for the rehearsal piece, Mozart’s ‘Requiem’, are handed out to the singers by school headmaster, Terry (Karl von Zwol), who is also the group’s administrator. Shy and ever helpful, Morris (Daniel Wilson) arrives, closely followed by the immaculately turned out Anne Marie (Susan Veart), a diva with a model-like figure and a beautiful soprano voice.

        The rehearsal begins, but the choir sings barely a note, when a young man, dressed in a labourer’s luminous, bright yellow shirt, bursts through the door wielding a gun. A shot is fired into the air. Wolf (Steven Hounsome) has arrived. In panic, the whole choir hit the floor as Wolf screams and struts his way around the stage. Living next door, he has tolerated their depressing, semi-melodic efforts for years, but enough is enough. He has decided that their singing must cease instantly.

 

This powerful production was guided by Siobhán O’Gara, who has – around the world – three decades as a director under her belt. Her years in Perth have seen her gain two nominations at the prestigious Finley Awards. Siobhán’s experience has covered most aspects of theatre from lighting to directing, from the smallest of community theatres, up to UWA’s Dolphin Theatre.

Siobhán has selected a strong cast, some have little experience and one or two are returning after a few years away from ‘the boards’. This is a particularly difficult play to stage, as Wolf challenges each choir member in turn. The choristers display how their outer shell, as seen every day, is not necessarily their true character. A wide variety of personalities is exposed as this story oscillates on its rocky rollercoaster ride.

The cast is shown as a simple ensemble of friends enjoying themselves, but subtly their characters have to change with the pressure. In all, the actors are expected to be happy, stressed, nervous, distraught, cunning and caring. For 75-minutes, there is no respite as they are faced with the terror. The cast must be 100% focused for the whole play, very demanding and tiring. I saw the first night, and the pace sagged a little for a minute at the 40-minute mark, but the group got their second wind and presented a very powerful and dramatic ending. Most impressive work.

The ‘average’ choir (deliberately so) that was an embarrassment at the start, band together, blossomed and showed us in the end that they did have musical talent, thanks to the musical director, Janice Miller-Eves’ skills.

Steven Hounsome was outstanding as the wild mad man, producing some convincing and unsettling moments.

A very well structured play that is most demanding of the cast, but I am sure will give the actors great satisfaction to perform, along with a chilling joy for the audience. Highly recommended.