Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Being the biggest blubberer at the opera, ever, I'm was a little surprised, not to mention disappointed, that I was dry-eyed. Well nearly. I got such a shock when George threw Lennie's dead mouse off-stage, and Anthony Dean Griffey's despair was so palpable, that I felt a tear running down my left cheek and it had just started. God, I thought, I'm not going to make it. That however, aside from a few twinges when Curly's wife went limp in Lennies clenching arms, was the emotional highpoint.

The mistake was possibly reading it on the weekend. It is such a beautifully written book, already a play, lean and compact, characters drawn with haunting minimalist word-smithing, and a jabbing use of repetition to evoke and underline. I loved the protagonists and I loved the conceit - that understanding is love - and I loved that JS was born in the same year as my father who as a youngster went jackarooing into the unfenced sheep stations of New South Wales, out in the far west. And by a completely bizarre chance meeting, a photograph recently turned up, sepia'd and worn, but enough to show a tent, a billy, and dad alone except for his dog, Lady. About 1920.

So, over primed, and despite very fine performances, a well honed Lennie by Anthony Dean Griffey in what is arguably his fetish role, a rock solid George by a nearly show stealing Barry Ryan, and for me a quite touching Jacqueline Mavardi in the impossibly difficult scale travelling Curly's wife, it just didn't get me, neither in its portrayal of individuals, nor more importantly in exposing their relationships. My loss I know.

I tended to find it musically counterintuitive to the way I 'heard' the book, like the great crescendos where I yearned for breath-holding silences - putting down the dog, let alone the man - and I was thinking what Peter Sculthorpe would make of this. It was all, not inappropriately I know, very American, and I was struggling with the switch. I ended up playing spot the tune.

Bruce Beresford made it all look and fit well, despite tedious scene changes and slightly cliched stills on the curtain. I actually didn't mind the short movie chase sequence, despite this segment being particularly musically effective, and the one place where visuals weren't really needed at all. However, I'm now wondering if the whole thing might have benefited from using more of his (Bruce Beresford's) cinematic skills. Right from the beginning, before opening curtain, establishing desperateness, and then during each scene change, working up the relationships, so that the 'opera' became of series of 'tableaux' in a grander scale vision of two men and their needs.

1 comment:

wanderer said...

What's more, thinking about it, what happened to Richard Meale's Voss. Why not Our Stories. Barker/Coleman-Wright/Armfield/Briger.