“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”
The most famous poem in the English language was composed in 1804, after Wordsworth saw the flowers while walking along the shore of Ullswater in the Lake District.
Now picture the scene, 160 years later, a meadow of blooming yellow flowers beside a lake, near Hamilton, New Zealand, where late one evening, a teenage boy sees a pretty young girl in a red dress. It’s a fateful meeting with long lasting consequences.
Daffodils (a Play with Songs), by Rochelle Bright, is inspired by the true life love story of her parents and their first encounter which “all started with a daffodil.”
Performed like a cabaret show, the narrative is creatively, concisely, charmingly dramatised through a soundtrack of song lyrics, music, old family snaps, vintage Super 8 home movies. The staging is simple - two microphones at the front, with two carpet runners leading back to the live Band of three musicians. Hold on tight as we time travel to 1964 and meet Eric and Rose as they set off on their crazy, fun loving journey together along the rocky road of life.
Rose, aged 16, stands barefoot in her floaty, coral-red chiffon dress, matching lipstick and wavy blonde hair framing her face; her sultry manner assumes a sense of maturity, but this masks an innocent, childlike quality. It's perhaps this girlish helplessness which appeals to and attracts Eric. When he finds out she is stranded beside the lake and daffodils, he is a gentleman who saves this damsel in distress, driving her home to her parents’ farm.
To a slow, soulful rendition of “Drive” by Bic Runga, we watch this scenario unfold on screen, headlights flashing in the night. As the lyrics say, “My head's so heavy, Could This be all a dream ..” But they do meet again, dancing at the Starlight Ballroom, a day trip by motorbike to the beach, with sand, sea and gulls, all captured with stunning images on screen, sound effects, music and their memories of happy times; Young love, unaware of threatening grey clouds and stormy days ahead.
With a wistful look, quick smile, and laughing eyes, Colleen Davis perfectly portrays the young Rose, nicknamed Popsy, (due to a fun popcorn incident at the cinema!), growing up into a graceful, caring young woman. As a blues singer, (with R’n’B act, Coco Davis), her rich, husky (very Scarlett Johannsen) voice is perfectly attuned to this repertoire of raunchy, romantic ballads.
Colleen is brilliantly partnered by the TV and film actor, Todd Emerson, who portrays Eric as a bit of a cool dude, who models himself on the Beatles’ era popstar image (with a touch of Elvis Costello), yet cannot deny he has a meltingly soft heart when it comes to wooing Rose.
With a fabulous performance by the Band too - songs by Crowded House, The Mutton Birds, Blam Blam Blam, et al - this is not just a play, but a modern opera, a feel good road movie, a music gig, all wrapped in a 70-minute rollercoaster ride of entertainment. It’s as colourful, fragrant and full of springtime romance as a bunch of yellow daffs - and as a homage to Wordsworth, it’s an eloquently, elegiac love poem.
Time: 4 – 28 August (times vary daily – see Fringe Brochure)
Tickets: £20.50/ £15.50 (U £8.50)