Directed by Jennifer Eriksson
Music performed by Jennifer Eriksson, Catherine Upex, Tommie Andersson and Belinda Montgomery
The Marais Project
The Independent Theatre
269 Miller Street, North Sydney
Season: 29 May
Music is capable of capturing the feeling of different moments in time, or emotions, whilst simultaneously rousing the emotions of the listener. This is an experience we all share, and prompts one to question whether this human connection we experience through music is the end-goal, or a by-product of creating art. In Fraser’s words, “Does the viola still play in the forest if there is no one around to hear it?” Furthermore, it can be this human connection and relationship that can compel us to create in the first place…or to stop.
Under Jennifer Eriksson’s directorial hand, The Marais Project have performed a number of classical works, including piecing together a number of reflections on the novel and film adaptation of Tous les Matins du Monde (English translation: All the World’s Mornings). This story features two great artists – the old and cantankerous Monsieur Sainte-Colombe who refuses to share his artistry with the world, and the young and impressionable Marin Marais (The Marais Project’s namesake) eager to hone his craft. Marais asks Sainte-Colombe for tutelage and eventually forms a revered working relationship with him, as well as an intimate relationship with Sainte-Colombe’s daughter, Madeleine. The Marais Project’s reflection on this novel and film, in the stage form entitled Master and Pupil, consists primarily of the performance of classical music interspersed with a one-man theatrical story telling, written and performed by James Fraser.
Superbly atmospheric music is created by an ensemble of three classical musicians (Jennifer Eriksson and Catherine Upex on viola and Tommie Andersson on theorbo) alongside one soprano singer (Belinda Montgomery). Eriksson is delightful to watch as she plays the intricate music, embodying the feeling of the music in a truly expressive manner. I was fascinated by Andersson’s theorbo, an instrument with at least 15 strings and a very, very long neck. Call me uncultured, but I’d never seen a theorbo played before.
For the dramatic part of the performance, it is essentially a one-man show – a weight that Fraser carries with ease. The writing of the work paired with adept characterisations achieves a portrayal of the story with simplicity, giving the audience all they need to fully imagine the tales. Fraser sustains deliberate focus for the entirety of his performance, displaying light and shade throughout. The audience delights in witnessing him switch rapidly between characters, humorous and yet not parodying the story. Evidently an experienced performer, Fraser elicits attention of the audience from the beginning and wonderfully complements the music to charm audiences through the comedy, trials and tragedy of the tale.
The continual reshaping of forms of storytelling can be crucial to ignite interest in stories with an important message, young and old. The Marais Project is actively participating in this process of reinvention, attempting to connect with audiences on multiple levels. The combination of classical music and theatrics is a splendour that perhaps can’t be explained, except through experience and connection to the art itself.