Modern spin on story of wine, women and sex

A scene from the highly-inventive stage show The God That Comes.

A scene from the highly-inventive stage show The God That Comes.

REVIEW: The God That Comes written by Hawksley Workman and Christian Barry directed by Christian Barry

Hannah Play House, Wellington until March 20

Shows with solo performers have been making an impact this year, both in the Fringe Festival and NZ festival and award-winning Canadian musician Hawksley Workman in his show The God That Comes, currently playing at the Hannah Playhouse, is no exception.

In a cross between cabaret, a rock concert and straight out storytelling writers Hawksley Workman and Christian Barry, artistic director of Canada's 2b Theatre Company, have taken Euripides' classic Bacchanalian story of wine, women and sex and given it an incredibly modern and inventive twist.

In the opening section Workman gives a very brief outline of the story; how a new god has arrived on the mountain inviting all the women and slaves up for an orgy, much to the disgust of the king.

When, dressed as a woman, the king goes to investigate, he finds his mother one of the main offenders.

The king then invites the god to a meeting to try and quell the debauched activities but to no avail after which a bloody riot ensues with heads and limbs being torn asunder with the mother, in a final act of defiance, tearing the head off her son the king.

Then, with lights up on three mannequins as king, god and mother, Workman re-enacts the story through a range of song styles and narrations in a way that was reminiscent of a modern rock version of a 1930's Berlin cabaret.

The structure of the music and composition of the songs also came across as very Kurt Weill/Berholt Brecht in style and while some of the rock numbers were on occasions somewhat screechy, the ballad numbers like Ukulady Boy and Dress Like A Man were descriptive and humorous.

But it is Workman's versatility as both a performer and singer that makes the show so unique in that not only does he play a full percussion/drum set, key board, electric and acoustic guitar, ukulele, recorder, and a harmonica, (played in a particularly unusual fashion), but has an amazing vocal range. 

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One moment he reaches the deep masculine register of the king then pitches high in a falsetto voice for the mother making this loud, in-your-face but unusual and unique show, as festival shows should be, well worth seeing, even if not to everyone's taste.


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