DeepBlue: Who Are You
Brisbane Powerhouse, October 10, 2012
Review by Charlene Li
I know immediately upon entering the Powerhouse Theatre that this show will be different. There’s the assortment of gadgetry scattered about giving the venue a retro-futuristic vibe, the splash of colour across the back of the stage (which will later serve as a screen for film projections), and then there is the convivial table seating — quite a departure from sterile recital halls. But what strikes my attention first is the fact that we are encouraged to leave our phones on (and also informed that photography was permitted). As an avid theatre goer who likes to keep mementos but too often has had to begrudgingly switch off the phone and keep the camera at bay, this was welcome news indeed.
DeepBlue is a classical crossover orchestra that seeks to breathe new life into classical music by fusing pop and rock songs with orchestral sounds, all the while putting on a damn entertaining show through the creative use of new media and theatrics.
Who Are You explores a person’s progression throughout life from birth through to old age, and the trappings that this would usually entail such as teen angst, romance, and work-week malaise. DeepBlue performs a set of pop and rock songs accompanied by emotive film projections and a series of quirky stage antics. The instruction to keep our phones turned on isn’t just a courtesy; one of the features of the show is a live and interactive program through the medium of a phone app and mobile site, which updates with each song and allows the audience to give feedback during the show.
The musicians perform like rock stars, moving in a casually choreographed fashion and engaging the audience. At one point during the show, the audience holds their breath as two of the performers skillfully play their instruments while navigating around the stage on stilts (Wayne Jennings) and a unicycle (Heidi Chappelow) in a makeshift slapstick routine.
The tracks were moving and catchy — the kind of sound that makes people want to get up and dance. Their cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” is particularly good, as is the improvised piece “Life of Bene” which is accompanied by a film projection showing a Dorian Gray-esque transformation of a child’s face into an elderly face.
While what is done is executed without fault, certain aspects of the show could be improved. The first is this unshakeable sense of bubble-gum artificiality that seems endemic to pop music and mainstream media. When attempting a theme as ambitious as life itself, finding a way to resonate with the core of the audience can be a difficult task; in this case unless the darkest and most difficult moments of your life are comparable to an episode of Glee, you may be left feeling cold.
Then there’s the set list comprised almost exclusively of mainstream pop and rock (likely also responsible for that sense of artificiality) with few classical pieces played throughout the evening. Electro-pop beats and instrumentals with a healthy disregard for convention is no doubt a good combination, and it is one which doesn’t necessarily preclude the Western classical music canon. One of several examples that come to mind is Bond’s “Oceanic“, which is a pop-electro arrangement of “Aquarium” from Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals“. Another way to diversify the program without turning to classical music might be to simply include a wider range of genres, such as something similar to Apocalyptica’s instrumental cover of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica.
That being said, the evening was energetic and great fun, and one that — from the standing ovations given around me — I suspect has wide appeal. Some classical music enthusiasts may be left wanting, but others will leave with a new appreciation for sounds that may have seemed foreign to them before. People who are already fans of DeepBlue in particular will not be disappointed.
DEEPBLUE: WHO ARE YOU runs at Brisbane Powerhouse until October 14, 2012.
CHARLENE LI is an arts junkie with a few too many interests. She thinks Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is the greatest work of literature in existence, and that the Brisbane arts scene is Australia’s best kept secret.