The Lady of the House of Love
Brisbane Powerhouse with Electric Moon
Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio
November 24 – 27 2016
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward
Sandro Colarelli’s The Lady of the House of Love brings Jake Diefenbach’s extraordinary original song cycle and Daniel Evans’ luscious adaptation of Angela Carter’s vampire queen tales to the stage in true gothic style. It’s one of my favourite productions ever, instantly, and it just might be one of the most perfectly crafted and presented boutique cabaret works of all time. I hope you saw it. Even if you’d seen it before (2008 & 2013) this is a dark, alluring tale told so beautifully intimately it could easily be enjoyed again, just as you listened time and time again as a child to your favourite fairy tales, or you might now watch the first two or three seasons of True Blood a second time, or a third time because Alexander Skarsgard…
LA PAPESSE. LA MORT. LA TOUR ABOLIE.
Colarelli is a master storyteller, a captivating performer, creating old world horror and charm in just one look, and glorious life and death in a single breath. (And the application of the breath and the voice here is impressive). The beauty of the piece is in its imagery, effortlessly conjured by Colarelli using Diefenbach’s haunting compositions, and the full extent of the vocal range and evocative language. Every word is deliberate, every vowel and consonant exquisitely shaped and delivered, the voice rich and full, words falling over us like the largest, heaviest raindrops. We sit in the candlelight and let ourselves be drenched in a world of the darkest beauty/horror.
WISDOM. DEATH. DISSOLUTION.
The High Priestess. Death. The Tower. Colarelli tells of how The Countess, forlorn in her mother’s bridal gown and looking for welcome relief from her life of living death, lures the men who come to her door. One night, when her tarot cards offer love for the first time, a British soldier appears and she seduces him with her red lips and tragic timeless beauty. The soldier is taken in by her and desires only to comfort her. As The Countess discards her gown, her dark glasses fall and shatter on the floor. She cuts herself on a shard of glass and the soldier kisses her wound to stop the blood. The next morning he discovers The Countess dead, clutching a (highly erotically charged and beautifully symbolic) rose, which he takes and puts into water in his efforts to revive (“resurrect”) it. The soldier is overwhelmed by the flower’s “corrupt, brilliant, baleful splendour” and prepares to take up arms in France.
The beauty, ache and enduring quality of Diefenbach’s original compositions means this music lingers long after the lights have come up, and the iTunes release of the show’s soundtrack (2013) means we can disappear again and again into the luscious life and death of The Countess. I’ve been lost in it for days again. If only the entire show was made available on audible.com.au
PSYCHOTIC. EROTIC. PERFECT.
Through A Window is vaguely reminiscent of Adele’s Someone Like You and Racing Into Springtime has an early, stripped back Tori Amos feel, as the innocent soldier/prey is drawn to the castle, before the seduction begins proper with a succession of enchanting songs interspersed with narrative (Too Many Roses, Across the Threshold and Becoming). The Exchange could be either the first or final heartbreaking track in a box office smash hit, so cinematic are its eerie discordant sounds and perfect plot summary.
COME TO ME.
Colarelli is nothing less than mesmerising as the tormented temptress, the naive soldier and Narrator.
The Lady of the House of Love is probably the most beautifully realised, darkly erotic and unashamedly exotic boutique production I’ve ever seen. I’m so glad I didn’t miss it. If only I had the venue in which to put this performer and this production on a regular basis. We all need more Colarelli in our lives, and probably a good deal more of this brand of dark and sensual storytelling, without the hype and inevitable disappointment that comes from Hollywood having a hand in it.
There was a soldier, there was a girl…….