Monday, 24 May 2010

CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS / PETER AND THE WOLF / Kamchatka Theatre Company and Singapore Festival Orchestra / Review

Kamchatka Theatre Company
Singapore Festival Orchestra
Esplanade Concert Hall
Friday (21 May 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 24 May 2010.

(The "sacking" of Esplanade Concert Hall, as reported earlier, was part of this act... just in case you were wondering.)

It looked like a scene from Bangkok today. Graffiti on the walls, litter strewn on every inch, and concertgoers were cordoned off, barred from entering the hall. A minivan then gatecrashed the foyer. Instead of riot police, it was 16 members of Spain’s Kamchatka Theatre Company, an outfit more in league with the Keystone Cops.

Music was on the plate, but not before a prolonged foreplay of acrobatics, juggling and visual comedy to set the mood. This reviewer was literally carried away, fireman-lifted by one of the troupe and unceremoniously dumped onto the stage (some say a fate befitting all critics).

Director Adrian Schvarzstein, perfect for the part with his brow-beaten demeanor, engaged and teased. When former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Tony Tan left his seat with grandchild in tow, probably to use the conveniences, he quipped, “You are going to do pee pee now?” Prostate problem or otherwise, the concert resumed after the duo returned.

The first part was a choreographed Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, with the twin sister act of pianists Low Shao Ying and Shao Suan, both of whom were royally carried to their stools. But first, a conductor had to be found. The chubby boy in the second row tried his luck and was ejected. Then a pretty senorita emerged from the audience, “I’ve got conducting lessons!” she pleaded. The orchestra seemed to like her looks, and so maestra Virginia Martinez raised her baton.
SFO cellist Elizabeth Tan does her best Jackie du Pré impression.

Placards with big bold titles were flashed in each of the 14 movements. The street actors did their spiels, which included Mister Bean and Monty Pythonesque routines, culminating with The Swan, a gravity-defying ballet on drapes slung high above the stage.

“The second part is the part after the first part,” drolly declared Schvarzstein. Without an intermission, the Singapore Festival Orchestra accompanied Suzie Templeton’s 2006 animated film Peter & the Wolf. Radically different from previous incarnations, there was a gritty edge to the production, which swung between genuine tension and humour, and an eco-conscious twist at the end. There was no need for narration, as the story told itself with split second synchronisation from the musicians playing Prokofiev’s familiar score.

More anarchic than Babies Proms and more riotous than a Taiwanese parliamentary session, the 2010 Singapore Arts Festival has midwifed a winning act of uncommon pedigree.

Everybody loves the Singapore Festival Orchestra!

Take a bow, Kamchatka!

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