STRIKING EMOTIONAL CHORDS
A Trip Across The Universe
Director: Stuart James
Musical Director: Bruno Shirley
presented by Backyard Theatre, in association with Speakeasy Theatre Ltd
at Gryphon, Wellington
From 12 Apr 2012 to 21 Apr 2012
Reviewed by Toby Wray, 13 Apr 2012
Entering the performance space, it's clear from the set filled with rugs, Beatles posters, Uncle Sam propaganda, lanterns, a large peace sign and musical instruments, that what is about to be presented is a musical showcase.
A Trip Across the Universe is publicised as being inspired by Julie Taymor's film Across the Universe, [which depicts the impact of Beatles music on the USA] and this certainly holds true; anyone who has seen the film will recognise that the characters, their journeys and the way the music was used, have been lifted almost directly from the film onto the stage.
Director Stuart James has said that the show is a ‘concert style production', but that he believes ‘the music is powerful enough to evoke emotion without the need for a cohesive story'. As such, the show is filled with 22 Beatles' songs, and no dialogue.
Having seen the film on which the show is based, it is difficult to make the call as to whether someone who hasn't would take quite as much from the performance, even more so for somebody who also had little knowledge of the Cultural Revolution. I do feel that there could have been better reference to the riots, as while Julie Taymor's movie makes reference to this during ‘Let it Be', the show's performance of the same song, while very touching, seems to lack the same clarity.
That said, the many symbols of the anti-war protests, or at least the befitting costuming, would surely spark an investigation by anyone who was not already aware of the history!
For anyone wondering, before seeing the show, why New Zealand's own history at that time is not being focussed on, rest assured that with the show's set-up, an adaptation would not have worked. A valid show as that would be, the history that A Trip Across the Universe focuses on, is equally valid and more suitable for the lack of cohesive story-line and title!
The cast and musicians both individually and collectively are very talented and certainly do all of the music justice. Several performances graced me with goosebumps and having been raised a Beatles' fanatic, I was very impressed.
I can delightedly say that although it may be a concert style production, the emotion put forth by the performers is incredibly striking. As this is the case, I feel obliged to say that A Trip Across the Universe should be considered more than just a showcase of Beatles' songs.
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