Sunday 12 February 2023

Songs of the Flesh review (Midsumma Festival)

Based on a text by Chris Beckey, Songs of the Flesh is coming-of-age fairy tale cum punk-tragedy that follows a young man and his exhaustive pursuit for the name of his love. With its inspiration taken from the bible, the Song of Solomon and Kate Bush, this queer love story is something that will stay with you for some time with performances, text and direction that draws in its audience to take them on a wild, passionate and raging journey.

Using two people to tell the one story brings an element of excitement to the show as each actor brings different energy and interpretation to the single character. Steven Mitchell Wright's remarkable direction ensures that while there is a differentiation in their performances, the two remain linked and the audience sees one protagonist on the stage. Josh Blake and Scott Middleton give fierce and powerful performances as the protagonist, both capturing the fear, anxiety, exhilaration and anger of discovering and pursuing new love and what it unleashes from within themselves.

The physicality and movement the two display and they way they carry themselves is transfixing. At times, they speak in unison and share the same lines of dialogue, which is where the production falters a little, as there are instances where Blake and Middleton are not in unison and it becomes distracting hearing one be a beat behind the other.

Told in chapters, with the titles projected onto the wall, it takes a couple of chapters to ease into the poetry of the words and the world and characters that are being established. But once we do, it turns into an intense viewing experience and Beckey's words create vivid imagery for us. There is a moment when the protagonist gets his happy ending, but in true The Danger Ensemble productions, it is not happily ever after, as the play moves to a darker and grittier tone. This includes two strong monologues from each actor and the reading of a letter he receives from his father but they don't fit in with the structure of what we've been watching, and introducing these forms this far into the story is slightly jarring.

The use of Theatre Works’ Explosives Factory is innovative with Wright utilising every space available to him, incorporating a few high placed nooks, to great effect. Even the way doors and doorways are engaged with by the actors conveys a considerable intelligence and ability to see beyond what is there and what can be there, and this in turns feeds the audience's own imaginations.

The Danger Ensemble would have to be one of the boldest and daring theatre companies in Melbourne. By taking the Song of Solomon as a starting point for this work, which among Christians, is interpreted as describing the binding love Christ has for his church and turning it into a sexual and sensual queer love story is indicative of the fearless approach the company has in making theatre that will leave an impact on its audience. It's easy to see why
Songs of the Flesh
sold out of its original season and an additional week has now been announced for this visceral work that will have you feeling a deep warmth in your heart, but also like you've just received an emotional gut-punch.

Click here to read out interview with Chris Beckey and Steven Mitchell Wright.

Show Details

Venue: Theatre Works Explosives Factory, 67 Inkerman St, St. Kilda

Season: until 18 February | Tues - Sat 7:30pm
Duration: 60 minutes

Tickets: $35 Full | $30 Concession
Bookings: Theatre Works

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