10
Jun
17

Song Lines

 

Song Lines

Brisbane Powerhouse & Charming Rebel

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Thursday June 1 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

What’s your song line? Do you know? Do you know where you come from; where you’ve been and what’s brought you to this place? If you do, that story is your song line, your living narrative, connecting you to all things, past and present. For many Indigenous cultures, their personal and cultural maps are far-reaching networks of songs, creating connections between people and place.

 

Michael Tuahine’s song line is not only his story, but those of his parents too; an Aboriginal mother and Maori father, and just like the slice of heaven that is the New Zealand production, Daffodils (sorry, if you missed it, it was superb), Tuahine’s debut solo show features his parents’ relationship and the soundtrack of their lives. His own story almost takes second place, however; it’s made very clear that the story continues, and that at this point, Tuahine’s 42 and single!

 

We hear the troublesome tale of his mother’s experiences as a young girl, at the hands of white Australians, and her resolve to start her life again in New Zealand, the only place to which an Australian Aboriginal woman could escape without a passport. I feel like we want to see a whole show about Tuahine’s mother… Let’s make that happen.

 

Once, once in a while

You’re gonna find her

Waiting for some recognition

It’s her transition to recognition

She has to be loved

She want to be needed

Don’t want to be hated

Just loves to be wanted

 

 

Tuahine’s deep connection to family and place comes through so beautifully and authentically.

 

We share in some of his fondest memories, of the fun and lively extended family gatherings, involving rich voices and guitars, and beers and footy, and good food and great kids; we understand perfectly, the deep sense of belonging and returning, and returning again to wherever home is made. Then of course there are the career moments that had to be had, including the relative success of the 90s boy band AIM 4 MORE. While the photos of the band and the family, which are shared as slides, add a personal element to the show, I think I’d expected something a little more sophisticated in the presentation. We’re accustomed to the audio visual work of the likes of optikal bloc, and perhaps we’ll need to see something more engaging in the next version of the show. Have we seen already, the screen shots of the family pics shared on Facebook, with all the likes and comments and emojis? That would be a neat way of sharing these precious memories for a social media savvy cabaret audience. This is an artist who can get away with such a gimmick.

 

 

Tuahine himself is nothing short of engaging. He’s charismatic, quick witted, cheeky and very funny; he’s quite a catch! (What are you doing about it, women of Australia?!). He’s able to bring pathos and proper crooner compassion to the ballads, certainly his strong point. At times the rock numbers lose a little of their impact, but this is easily remedied if Tuahine is to continue to work with musical directors such as Bradley McCaw, who is musically brilliant and brilliantly entertaining on keys, guitars and vocals. In fact, this three-piece band could easily travel with Tuahine to the far ends of the earth for gigs. They work beautifully together.

 

Roy Orbison’s Crying will always make me think of Mulholland Drive, but this rendition is in remembrance of Jimmy Little, the Aboriginal artist who encouraged Tuahine to pursue his dreams of becoming an entertainer, and inspired him to go to Queensland Theatre Company’s AD, Wesley Enoch, with the concept for Country Song.

 

When we hear She Has To Be Loved and Tuahine’s favourite Maori numbers and Australian Aboriginal songs, we hear his whole heart and soul.

 

This beautifully packaged show, taken under the gentle wing of someone willing to quietly coax a little more out of it, and with all the charm and sincerity of its rising star, will be as far-reaching as any song line. Keep an eye out for its return.

 

 

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