Songs for a New World

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Anna Lawson; Mlu (Mlungisi Mthethwa); Sarah Jane Bourne; Dieter

Theatrespot announced its debut at the Fringe with a presentation of Songs for a New World. Shows like this are difficult to categorise as it is appears to be composed of a series of unconnected songs with no continuity of character or plot between all the different mini presentations, except that the songs are driven passionately by the characters themselves and all have a theme within them. If you listen carefully you will understand that they are about specific moments in time or moments for the character being portrayed and the consequences of those moments - both positive outcomes and regrets of choices made, just as we have all through our lives and indeed as history itself has played out over the years - hold that thought!

This show lends itself well to the Fringe format in that its stage presentation is minimalist; one medium size square of curtain, one large basket, four chairs and lots of changes of clothes. Behind the curtain, the characters come and go and change with unbelievable rapidity. Other than one scene where war images are projected onto the curtain, scene changes take place almost fluidly and usually consist of rearranging the basket or the chairs if any are required at all.

It is a vocally demanding show, made even more so by a sound system going on the blink at times. But all the characters took it in their stride and in true Fringe tradition. Mlu (who came to worldwide notice in the Sydney production of the Lion King) has an excellent voice and a lovely sense of rhythm and body movement; look particularly for his "King of the World" about 2/3 rds of the way through - superb! Sarah Jane (ex Side by side by Sondheim) has a quality of voice (from her Royal Academy training) which shone through several solo spots and some unusual and amusing voice characterisations; the most poignant of moments coming in her scene "The Flagmaker, 1775." Dieter and Anna combined exceptionally well in a duet of "I'd give it all for you." Individually, these are four very talented performers, but when they perform as a company, they are unbelievably good.

The music ranges through pop, gospel, jazz and classical in an end to end non stop performance of high quality which stands in stark contrast to the individual 'moments' within each scene. Often combining more than one genre within each song, it flowed effortlessly through all the superficially separate scenes until the dying moments when the full company plead with us to "Hear my song." However, I would defy anyone to just sit and let the music wash over them, as one of the most active parts of the event will be your brain making the connections, running through the consequences and perhaps relating them to your own lives; you have to be quick because the scenes won't wait for you!

This is a work of musical theatre by the award winning Jason Robert Brown who put the show on in the WPA Theatre, New York City in 1995. It has notched up over 200 performances worldwide since then. Jason, himself says of this work, "It's about one moment. It's about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back." If you're still holding that original thought - pass it on! If you still don't understand then you need to get on down to the Demarco Roxy Art House.

Sarah Jane Bourne &
Dieter Thomas

Mlungisi Mthethwa

Sarah Jane Bourne

© Julian Davis 17/08/2007. First published on
© Images by kind permission of Shaun Crittell

Run 13th - 27th August 2007