Presented by Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and Variegated Productions
Review by Ash Lee
Photos by Daniel Grant
Be a Skald, Spread the Word.
Born from the collaberative partnerships of Libby Klysz (Producer & Creative Consultant), St John Cowcher (lead writer & performer), Joe Paradise Lui (co writer & performer), Gracie Smith (co writer & performer), Chris Donnelly (Lighting Designer), Alexa Taylor (Dramaturg), and Nicole Marrington (Costume Designer) and Produced by Variegated Productions; RAGNARØKKR is most certainly a Fringe World Festival show that you do not want to miss. I promise you, this is a team of creative geniuses and whether you’re already familiar with the Norse Mythology of Ragnarok or not, this contemporary piece is an exemplary production that is sure to impress.
Derived from the 13th Century texts of Snorri Sturluson, (Poetic Edda and Prose Edda), Ragnarokkr has remained as an ever present subject for scholarly discourse throughout history. It speaks of epic battles, natural disasters, and the resulting cycles of the worlds death and rebirth. Cowcher, Lui and Smith expertly harness their knowledge of these historical sagas and they have clearly armed themselves with an extensive amount of historical reasearch. Cowcher’s adaptive rendition of RAGNARØKKR is a contemporarily relevant piece that demonstrates how artists can and are using their art forms to communicate contextual meanings that are embedded with elements of climate conscious environmental activism.
The mood is set from the very beginning as audience members enter the theatre and fill every available seat. Lui and Smith are already in position on stage, they play a precession as people enter and I am immediately drawn in by the tribal like sounds emanating around me that are reminiscent of those produced by Nordic band HEILUNG and Jeff Waynes War of The Worlds.
Once seated, a voice appears;
“The world has gone to shit”
A sentiment shared by many and an issue of extreme relevance to our youth, on a global scale and with this – the mood is set.
On stage, Cowcher is the skald…he is the poet who stands before the audience and proclaims that we are the court, the leaders, the “Kings and Queens” of this contemporary age and he commands our attention as he begins. If conducted outside the space of theatre, for example on the street corner, Cowcher would likely encounter problems with authorities and draw skepticism from the idle passer-bys – there is every chance that he would be referred to as an “eccentric rambler” however, here, in the formal setting of theatre; one could not possibly arrive at such a conclusion or cast this stereotype upon him because on this stage, he does not stand alone and within this theatre – the audience has entered a contractual agreement of sorts, they have come of their own free will with the intent to listen.
Cowcher is flanked by Smith (stage left) and Lui (Stage Right). They are situated towards the back, placed upon an invisible line that connects upon an equatorial axis and symbolically signifies their roles/characters within the unfolding stories as being of equal significance. Historically, it is speculated that the skald would have been accompanied by musical instruments such as the Lyre or Harp and I cannot help but speculate that Cowcher, Smith, and Lui must have considered the significance of this when approaching creative decisions. Along with the fact that this creative team has a dedicated Dramaturg, Alexa Taylor, it is their instrumental choices that cause this inclination: neither Smith nor Lui is constrained to just the one instrument. Yes, Smith is the commander of her drum kit and Lui his guitar however they both utilise a repertoire of other traditional and non-traditional instrumental tools in a manner that allows them total control of the atmospheric ambience within the theatrical space. It is mesmerising to witness their musicality as they provide Cowcher with the kind of metric variations, sequential footing, and rhythmical structures worthy of musical scores produced for large scale cinematic productions. With their accompaniment, Cowcher’s voice transcends (delivers?) the audience directly into the realms and experiences of which he speaks. With the aid of extremely high platform boots, Cowcher’s height allows him to stand tall upon the stage and he is able to look audience members throughout the theatre directly in the eyes – this increases his presence as he exudes powerful and deliberate intonations in speech and song.
As an artist, I am acutely aware that every single aspect of this performance has been so acutely considered. The lighting, the costumes, the compositional structures, the rhythmical sequences of dramatic poetry, the theatrical devices, the lyrical components, the musical scores, and the use of textual projections as transitional devices that indicate the separation of different chapters within the overall story – ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING – has been crafted to perfection. With such complex arrangements that require musical stamina, this kind of performance could not have been executed in such an astounding fashion by just any performer – the talent witnessed at this event is unparalleled.
I will definitely be keeping an eye out for any future events produced by members of this creative team. Check out the Links below for more information and be a skald – spread the word.
Presented by Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and Variegated Productions, RAGNARØKKR is currently showing at Fringe World Festival Feb 4 – 8, You can find tickets here: https://fringeworld.com.au/whats_on/ragnarokkr-fw2020
Review by Ash Lee
Company: Variegated Productions
Producer and Creative Consultant : Libby Klysz
Written and created by: St John Cowcher
Dramaturg: Alexa Taylor
Cast: St John Cowcher (lead writer & performer) with Joe Paradise Lui and Gracie Smith (co writers & performers)
Lighting Designer: Chris Donnelly
Costume Designer: Nicole Marrington
Gracie Smith Music: