This has been a monumental year of growth for The Blue Roo Theatre Company from the highs of Opera Queensland’s Open Stage program to the tragedy of losing a founding member and friend Jamie Carrigan.
Song Circle (Judith Wright Centre October 9-11) is the result of that growth; a suite of twelve personal stories laid bare in original songs; the culmination of a ten month collaborative process with Opera Queensland and a touching dedication to the missing Roo whom they lost along the way.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this unique ensemble perform a few times and yet I am still amazed at just how uplifted and joyful I come away from an evening spent in their ever-growing audience. What’s more, I learn something new each time we meet. I was honestly surprised at the maturity of Song Circle – mature not only in the depth of their subject matter but also in how the performers have developed their craft over the time that I have seen them. They have grown into a disciplined and intuitive crew.
The production itself is well balanced and there is no doubt that this show is by and about the Blue Roo Ensemble with Sam Hartley and Susan Ellis from Opera Queensland, adding a subtle and harmonious compliment to the show while the mentorship of the Open Stage program is evident in the quality of the performances.
Song Circle is raw on the eyes as well as the emotion with just the performers, a row of striking red chairs and a spotlight inhabit the stage. We are greeted by the lovely melodies of a live orchestra, a signature of the Blue Roo experience, with musical direction and composition by Elliot Thomson. The Ensemble file in from behind both sides of the audience and open the circle with song – almost like a welcome to country for the soul.
Having only seen Opera on the big stage before, I am struck at just how operatic the Judith Wright space feels. Artistic Directors Jason Barry-Smith and Clark Crystal have done a stellar job of making this small stage appear larger than life. As the musical numbers flourish, the performers seem also to grow larger into the space. They really come to life in ‘Silly Song’, a comedy interlude with slap-stick, interactive jokes and is a real hoot for the performers as well as the audience.
Stand-out moments were ‘Liam’s Rose’ – Liam Maloney’s wonderful voice caused me to wonder if he was a Blue Roo or with Opera Queensland; ‘Wheels on Fire’ – a stunning choreographed danced piece by four wheelchair performers; and ‘Love Duet’ – originally a duet between Nikela Carrigan and her husband Jamie but in Jamie’s absence, Sam Hartley and Susan Ellis stepped in to support Nikela through this touching song. I have to admit to a case of watering eyes during this one.
Blue Roo have once again proven that disability and theatre are a winning combination of inspiration and creativity – something that we can all share. Under the proud, guiding hand of Artistic Director Crystal Clark, Blue Roo continue to blaze a trail for inclusive theatre everywhere.
For more information about Blue Roo visit their website www.bluerootheatre.org.au.