In some ways, the title, Black Brass, is a bit of a furphy. It suggests a show with trumpet, trombone or tuba. What you get is strings – guitar and vocal chords.
Set in Australia, today, Black Brass starts with the slow ceremonial use of time in a small recording studio, when, after hours, a Congolese cleaner tries to tidy the mess left by careless musicians.
As he cleans, reverie rears it’s undulating ugly, beautiful head. We perceive the pain of leaving his home, empathise with the alienation of living in a new land, get his gratitude, his confusion, the mess of his life.
Simultaneously, on the other side of the glass, another man, a projection of hope, a bastion of tradition and resilience, is playing music both joyous and heart-rending, songs of home, of love, of power.
Black Brass is a play, personal and political, told through music and song that spans continents, colonisation and culture, and all the complexities that encompasses.
The Cleaner is performed by creator/writer of the piece, Mararo Wangai, and he is joined onstage by composer-musician Mahamudo Selimane, who strums, stomps and sings his way through this narrative with strings sensitive virtuosity and voracious vocals.
The duo play out the narrative on a revolve that works like a panning camera under lighting that eventually evokes the colours of the Republic of Congo flag.
Ostensibly a play, Black Brass is also a documentary recreation of a refugee life expressed through a collage of rhetoric and polemic and music, and it’s when the music kicks in that Black Brass comes to sensational, soul searching, soul searing life. The music becomes entwined with imaginary conversations and monologues which attempt to explain The Cleaner’s life and aspirations in the context of the Congo, it’s corruption, and fleeing to some sort of confused freedom in Australia.
The result is often brilliantly wrought, sometimes over wrought – jagged, dislocated and seemingly spontaneous. Like a ballsy burst of brass.
by Mararo Wanga
Director Matt Edgerton
Venue: Upstairs Theatre | Belvoir, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills NSW
Dates: 6 – 23 Jan 2022