Photos – Bryony Jackson

Scream Star by Speak Percussion is as much a dance and theatre show as it is a musical recital. Across the triple bill of newly commissioned works, music is just one aspect of highly conceptualized and multi-faceted ideas branching into video, choreography, stage design and interactive digital technology.  

Each piece has a completely different vibe and motivation, but all are densely packed and detailed and run the gamut of entertaining, cryptic, wacky and virtuosic.

Scream Star is not what one would expect from a contemporary music performance!

A trio of extremely versatile percussionists – Eugene Ughetti, Kaylie Melville and Hamish Upton – perform live across the program, spending as much time on their instruments as they do manipulating objects like video cameras and iPads, sliding screens and dancing with props.  

Matthew Shlomowitz’s Hey Hey It’s Tuesday opens the show with a big band, nostalgic feel. The multi-level stage is chock full of instrument rigs, with a red curtain backdrop. A montage of video clips (by Laura Spark) plasters band competitions, theatre openings, amateur talent shows and percussion masterclasses across a large screen. The performers blend in as live accompaniment to the film and have a lot of fun bouncing around the entire stage, constantly changing their physical relationship to the dominant visuals.  

Johannes Kreidler’s Welcome (for percussion trios and video) shifts into a techie world, with the trio jostling with iPads and video cameras, superimposing their body parts against pre-recorded images and triggering unique digital events. The physical activity gets manic at times and is super reliant on the technology for the visual humour, but the ambitious piece holds together. 

Jessie Marino’s A Dream of Flight, or at least, lurching forward a few inches brings home Scream Star with an ambient energy that subtly shifts atmospherically as the piece progresses. Initially it’s a dance of props – the humans, with simple-stepped choreography manipulate simple objects like round gold fan and sticks that whip crack.  

This activity dissolves into a Zen-like universe when the centre of the space reveals a sculptural floor piece that looks like the moon’s surface, with lasers emanating. Above that, on a higher level of stage, a collection of windmills – poles with various cymbals and power saw blades – create a sparse field of distant tall poppies. The musicians briefly play some of the “flowers,” but like all of Scream Star, the aural contribution is only one part of a much greater whole.  

With lighting design by Bronwyn Pringle, this collection of eclectic, stand-alone works makes for a very full evening that’s impossible to fully absorb in one viewing.  

Even with little knowledge of the machinations of the music compositions themselves, it’s easy to appreciate the thoughtfulness and visions that have created these different aural and visual environments.  

Event details

Scream Star
by Speak Percussion

Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall | 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne VIC
Dates: 18 – 21 August 2022
Tickets: $35 – $20
Bookings: artshouse.com.au | (03) 9322 3720

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