Century Song is a 50 minute show combining music, movement and video projections as it takes us on an aesthetic journey through the last hundred years. At the heart of the show is soprano Neema Bickersteth who does the singing and dancing. The singing consists of vocalises by Rachmaninoff, Messiaen, Cage, Aperghis and finally, a piece composed for the show by Reza Jacobs. The songs are accompanied Gregory Oh on piano and Ben Grossman on percussion and computer. The musical interludes are structured improvisations originally devised by Reza Jacobs, Gregory Oh and Debashis Sinha. The dance elements are choreographed by Kate Alton and use a very wide kinetic vocabulary. Bickersteth’s constantly changing costumes further illustrate the time travel element of the narrative.
The projections are quite startling. They create a sense of three dimensional depth that I would not have thought possible without stereo glasses. They range from a cubist nude by Kathleen Munn through iconic Käthe Kollwitz images from the 20s and 30s to a quite remarkable pop art based series of receding room animations to a video game like tour of the modern city. The last two were created specially for the show by fettFilm. The immersive nature of these images; both when Bickersteth is on stage and during the interludes is very hard to capture in words.
Bickersteth has a really good voice and she’s a great mover but this is much more than a one woman show. The musical contribution of Oh and Grossman is crucial. They have to work in a very wide range of styles and are really good. This show though is much more than the sum of its parts and deconstructing it element by element doesn’t do it justice! You have to see and hear it.
Century Song is presented by Nightwood Theatre at the Crow’s Theatre at Dundas and Carlaw. It runs until April 29th.
Photo credits: John Lauener.