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Satango

So ventured back to the Stables to see Satango a new Australian musical (!) starring Simon Burke and Sharon Millerchip (!!). If there's one thing to make me come out of the burrows, that would be it.

It was ... well, mostly I thought it wasn't very good. The script is pretty bad. The two main characters (the Devil and a woman Sofia) are moved in and out of scenes with extreme clunkyness. "Oh I feel tired" Sofia says just so that the Devil can do a number by himself. The jokes are almost as cheap as the Stables foyer air conditioning, even if I did appreciate the digs at GWB 43b, Family First etc.

But back to the structure: Worst of all was the way Sofia was brought into Hell. She was looking for a vet for a dog she only just found on the train. The Devil kills the dog and she announces she has to grieve (yes, that blatantly) so she can sing a soulful song about "love forever". And she decides to stay even though the Devil broke his bargain to make the dog well.

The construction of this sequence was totally unbelievable. I lost confidence in the writing at that point.

Now it gets a bit interesting. There IS a payoff for the dog and even the song at the end of the play... BUT I don't think that excuses the contrived-in-the-extreme nature of the setup. You really want your guns on the wall not be sticking out like nuclear weapons in a Chekhov play.

That's the bad... now for the good:

  • The story starts of very silly and Burke camps it up panto style for all it's worth (possibly doing his best to sell some weak material). However, it does gradually get more serious and the change is gradual and very well handled. For example, one explicit song about 9/11 is foreshadowed by a tipping one of those "snow glass" dioramas - a New York one - upside down, so when the song does come, it's not as incongruous as it might otherwise have been. Burke can also go from high camp to genuine emotion in a smooth arc over the night.
  • The twist at the end was not entirely unpredictable, but it did have a very nice Neil Gaiman quality to it. And I've always thought Millerchip looked too angelic to be true!
  • The songs range from okay (bit more variation and key changes would have helped) to very good (particularly the closing number about how there's a bit of devil in everyone of us). Worth preserving - more on which below.
  • Simon Burke's voice.
  • Most of all, Sharon Millerchip. Even after all these years, she can still do it to me. Totally captivating and - as ever - appealing aesthetics of a wood nymph. (Weird I hadn't noticed how much Nikki looks like her. Explains a lot actually!) Okay, vocallly she wasn't at her best tonight, but the way she moves on stage - even when she's not doing the tango. I swear I could watch that woman fill out a tax return and die happy.

Wayne Harrison was in the audience (operating a stage effect!) and after the show I ummed and ahhed for a few minutes, then went over and asked if I could help fund a cast recording. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 4, 2004 5:29 PM.

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