REVIEW: Mum's Choir
Invercargill Repertory Society
Performances every night this week
There's not a lot to smile about in death, which too often triggers a thought of our own.
For all that, there were as many laughs as tears on Saturday night when the Invercargill Repertory staged Mum's Choir, a poignantly moving story of a family gathering to farewell their mum.
Jonathan Tucker, Repertory Society patron now but ever the producer-director, chose a marvellous New Zealand work in Mum's Choir written by Shortland Street's Alison Quigan after the loss of her own mother.
For Mollie, Mum had asked her family to perform Faure's Requiem at her passing - like Ralph Hotere, requesting a Holy Communion hymn be sung in pre-Vatican II Latin at his requiem mass.
And with both, it was grief expressed in both Latin and Maori that proved the heart breaker.
Multi-talented, Michael Buick was Noel, the son entrusted with organising the music his mother loved, cajoling his siblings to sing round the piano with him.
He called upon his brother Kev (Andy Wood), much criticised for arriving late, sisters Cathy (Buffy Edlin), Jean (Karley Wilks-Forde) and Terri (Brogan Campbell), Mum's sister Aunty Nola (Dorothy Hart-Brown, still the best pins on stage) and Mum's eldest grandchild Mat, well-played by Jade Gillies.
There was Mum in her own sitting room surrounded by flowers and a family struggling to put together a eulogy.
Born, married, five children - what else? Catholic women's league, pottery club, machine knitters, church choir. Mum loved music.
And with the music the memories, girls singing in sailor suits, karaoke, mum, dad long gone.
There was that sad realism too, funeral director Nigel Edwards showing how gently to close down the lid after a tear-filled farewell.
For Tucker the challenge was finding people who could sing as well as act.
Buffy Edlin of course - marvellous voice anywhere on stage, in churches, clubs, shows; UK-born Dorothy Hart Brown who knows every song sung; Andy Wood who has taught most of them and Karley Wilks-Forde who found yet another talent.
And then another generation emerging - Jade Gillies freed from A Cry too Far to be Mum's soldier grandson singing his lament in Maori; and a bolshie blonde mother-to-be Brogan Campbell, the baby of Mum's brood.
Jade, grandson of late city architect Allan Mollison, Brogan granddaughter of great Grand chef Nick Kooy.
Tthese young people show the depth of talent in the south - bedded in, nurtured now, ensuring theatre will remain strong here as Tucker enters his 51st year with the Invercargill Repertory society with the energy and optimism of his first.
The show runs at Repertory House, Esk street, Invercargill, every night this week finishing on Saturday.
You will smile and laugh and cry too.
Mum's Choir brings sweet and sad memories; makes them, too.
- © Fairfax NZ News