Colourful tapestry with many depths
'Rita and Douglas', Taranaki International Arts Festival, 12/13 August 2011
Reviewer: Jo Hills
Taranaki Daily News, 13 August 2011
'Music, visual art and theatre are skilfully interwoven and balanced in 'Rita and Douglas'.
This show opened last night at the Theatre Royal to a sell-out crowd. The 80-minute performance tells of the brief love affair New Zealand artist Rita Angus had with musician Douglas Lilburn in the early 1940s.
Rita's letters to Douglas create part of the multi-tiered structure of the show.
Added to the mix is Lilburn's music plus projections on a large screen of Angus' art works and biographical photos.
Jennifer Ward-Lealand plays Rita Angus, reading the letters out loud. The audience hangs on her every word; although one audience member told me that was because she found Jennifer's softly spoken voice difficult to hear. However, the story she reveals entrances listeners.
Many left the show commenting on new facts they had picked up. It is certainly obvious that Jennifer is well cast in the role. You soon notice how much she resembles her character in looks, but it is her brilliant interpretation of Rita's many moods that captivates the audience.
Her monologue is accompanied by pianist Michael Houstoun, who plays the music, but not the character of Lilburn. Put together the two performers are like a wonderful duet. The music reflects the mood. Sometimes it's calm, periodically it is discordant and angry, often it's turbulent and erratically it is frivolous or joyful.
Houstoun's superb playing is an art work in its own right.
The final piece in the composition are the art works projected onto a screen. they show different stages in Rita's life. Several appear more than once. Each time you look at them you see something different as you learn more about Angus and Lilburn.
It soon becomes obvious, as Angus herself says, that you cannot separate the woman from the painting. This show is a colourful tapestry with many depths to it.
It plays again tonight at the Theatre Royal at 7pm. Seats may be hard to come by though.'