REVIEW: Ships Songs (Q Theatre)

Ian Hughes in Ship Songs

Ships Songs Sings [by Sharu Delilkan]

Ian Hughes in Ship Songs

The live band on stage kick starts the voyage dramatically, promising and definitely delivering a memorable theatrical journey.

Although I am a sucker for live music, I must admit that this combination can sometimes appears somewhat disjointed. The opposite of course is true with Ship Songs. In fact the live band is so involved in the whole process, they almost represent a multitude of characters, in addition to playwright and actor Ian Hughes’ 14 characters. Their role as musicians and as the voice of reason is so effortlessly intertwined that it is almost hard to imagine them disassembled, after a while.

Ship Songs is essentially a simple ageless story of passion, love and pain, which everyone can relate to. The humour, which laces the entire piece together, is used sparingly but to great effect. But the fact that it’s based on his parent’s love story, makes the piece all the more poignant.

It is always refreshing to see a work that has been around for a while, that started out as a developmental piece for the Auckland Theatre Company in 2008, push the envelope and come up trumps on the other side. It is equally exciting when it results in an almost a brand new work rather than a rehashing of a previous incarnation.

So I say ‘Well done Ian’, for making those brave decisions. And of course having musicians like Don McGlashan, Chris O’Connor and Dave Khan along for the ride, is nothing short of genius.

So if you’re a ‘theatrephobe’, who loves live music, this one is definitely for you.

McGlashan’s original score is brilliant with the impeccable blend of East meets West, which is perfectly pitched.

The fast paced show that flits between land and sea, as well as all over the globe, sucks the audience in whether you are ready or not. I for one was left a little winded after watching Hughes’ unflagging physical 90-minutes performance. And singing while jumping relentless around on stage is not only the mark of an uber fit person, but also that of a consummate actor worthy of praise.

The script is flawless as is Hughes’ seamlessly transitions between characters. His accent changes, that are as naturally as breathing in and out, demonstrates Anna Marbrook’s deft direction.

The different levels of John Verryt’s set with the elevation behind the live band, flanked by the projection screen, as well as the ‘biscuit tin’ are used very effectively. It is also a great metaphor for the story layers that get piled upon each other.

And of course it would be remiss to omit the slick AV projections, which give the whole production an added fourth dimension.

Don’t take my word for it, go see it for yourself. It’s a gem of New Zealand history well worth a butchers.

Ship Songs plays at Q, Rangatira until 7 April. More info at Q.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz  review by Adey Ramsel

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