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Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Music/Musical Theatre

Lust, cask wine and Puccini-on-Swan

17 January 2021

Brendan Hanson’s reworking of Puccini in The Cloak and Dagger could be a runaway Fringe hit, according to Rosalind Appleby.

The Cloak and Dagger, Jessica Taylor ·
Crystal Swan, 15 January, 2021 ·

Do what you can to get a ticket to this double-bill because it is going to be one of the smash hits of the Fringe. The Cloak and Dagger is a ground-breaking production by soprano Jessica Taylor and fellow graduates from the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

The performers have commandeered the river-cruising vessel, Crystal Swan, for a site-specific performance of Puccini’s miniature opera, The Cloak (from his collection of three one-act operas, “Il Trittico”, or “The Triptych”). But there’s a twist – several twists, actually. The gritty story of The Cloak (Il Tabarro), originally set on a barge on the Seine in 1910, has been updated to suit the glass-enclosed Crystal Swan and a 1980s Perth setting. And director Brendan Hanson has turned Puccini’s verismo tragedy into a musical smash hit by inserting a cabaret prologue, Dagger, the first part of the bill.

The night begins with audience members boarding the Crystal Swan as guests at Shaz and Daz’s engagement party river cruise, which is replete with all the big hair, taffeta and eye shadow an 80s party could want (design Jake Pitcher). A string of karaoke songs introduces us to various characters, as comic subplots unfold in various corners of the boat, aided by plenty of obscene language, VB and cask wine.

The engaged couple, Shaz (Bella Marslen) and Daz (Liam Auhl), are off to a rocky start with Shaz’s lusty sister Kaz (Charis Postmus) vying for Daz’s attention. Postmus’s tempestuous “Cry Me a River” is a standout. Also worth mentioning are Tom Buckmaster’s intensely emo delivery of Radiohead’s “Creep”, a fitting introduction to the character of Louis, and Ry Charleson’s spiralling countertenor in “Take on Me”. The party shenanigans culminate with the audience joining in for “Come on Eileen” and an exuberant “Locomotion”.

It’s a fabulous vehicle to showcase the sizzling talent of the young performers – there’s nothing like sitting a few feet from a red-hot opera singer at full throttle. Kudos also to music director and pianist George Unkovich, whose incredible musicianship spanned everything from Faure to Edith Piaf.

After interval, the drama takes on darker overtones as the struggling relationship of party guests Michael (Brett Peart) and Georgetta (Jessica Taylor) takes centre stage in The Cloak. Peart and Taylor sing Puccini’s increasingly dissonant music with heartbreaking sadness. The music twists even further as the illicit eroticism between Georgetta and Louis unfolds to its tragic end.

The Cloak and Dagger is an exhilarating and emotional ride that has set the bar extremely high for Fringe music shows. It’s also great value for money, with tickets ranging from $30 to $75 for more than two hours of exceptional entertainment and stunning city views from the river.

The Cloak and Dagger is on as part of Fringe World from 20 to 24 January, 2021.

EDITORS NOTE: Tom Buckmaster has retired from The Cloak and Dagger due to an injury and soprano Chelsea Burns will be stepping into the character of Louis, (who will undergo a gender change to Louise), making the WA premiere run of ‘Il Tabarro’ even more experimental than it already was.

Pictured top: Fiancee Shaz (Bella Marksen) and flirty Kaz (Charis Postmus) at Shaz and Daz’s engagement party in ‘The Cloak and Dagger’. Photo: Jake Pitcher


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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

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