Mov­ing cel­e­bra­tion of an ex­traor­di­nary mu­si­cal tal­ent

Dub­boo: Life of a Song­man Car­riage­works and Ban­garra Dance The­atre. Car­riage­works Bay 17, Syd­ney, De­cem­ber 5.

The Australian - - ARTS - JOHN McCAL­LUM

This is Stephen Page and Ban­garra Dance The­atre’s me­mo­rial cel­e­bra­tion of the life, work and spirit of Roy David Page, also known as Lit­tle Davey Page, aka Dub­boo, aka Dav­ina Cha-Cha.

It is a tribute to the ex­traor­di­nary achieve­ments of this fine artist, who died in 2016, that he had so many nick­names. He was Ban­garra’s prin­ci­pal com­poser and mu­sic di­rec­tor for 25 years. He was a child singing star who ap­peared on The Paul Ho­gan Show and Count­down. He was an ac­tor, a drag per­former and a proud Nunukal and Mu­nald­jali man. He was also, by all ac­counts, a lov­ing and loved fam­ily man, a mem­ber of the Page clan, many of whom were there on open­ing night.

The show is beau­ti­fully put to­gether, in two parts. The first, Song­man, cel­e­brates his mu­sic from Ban­garra pro­duc­tions dat­ing back to 1994.

Its tone is mostly se­ri­ous, with some fine re-chore­ograph­ing, for the cur­rent Ban­garra dancers, of ex­tracts from clas­sics such as Ochres, Fish, Skin, Cor­ro­boree and Bush. There are so­los by some of the dancers, in­clud­ing, from Bush, “Feather”, danced by Tara Gower with a sin­u­ous grace that no ac­tual bird ever had.

The mu­sic is per­formed by a very good string quar­tet (Veron- ique Ser­ret, Stephanie Zarka, Carl St Jacques and Paul Ghica) and by David Page mu­sic fel­low Bren­don Boney. Each of the guest singers in this part — Djaka­purra Mun­yarryun, Archie Roach and Ur­sula Yovich — has worked with David Page and each gives a per­sonal tribute be­fore singing, splen­didly as you would ex­pect from singers of this cal­i­bre, some of his songs. Roach’s ten­der ren­di­tion of Small Child and Yovich’s When are par­tic­u­larly pow­er­ful, as is Djaka­purra’s Cleans­ing, which stir­ringly closes the first half.

The tone changes glo­ri­ously in the sec­ond half, Show­man, in which the stage is moved closer to the au­di­ence and filled with tin­sel and glit­ter and all the mu­sic is lip­synched pop and drag an­thems. In Song­man we had video of Page work­ing at his key­board and com­puter, in­clud­ing one strik­ing scene in which he ap­pears to be con­duct­ing the live singers on­stage. In Show­man Hunter Page-Lochard and Miss El­la­neous en­ter in full drag, sup­ported by the dancers from the first half, now in shim­mer­ing sexy cos­tumes.

Here the ac­com­pa­ny­ing footage is from the pop­u­lar TV shows of Page’s youth and, later, his many screen per­for­mances. In one de­li­cious scene there is a staged drag per­for­mance by the dancers of a count­down of top hits, on Count­down, in which we see Re­nee Geyer, Sky­hooks, John Paul Young and Mar­cia Hines de­feated for No 1 by Lit­tle Davey Page.

More artists should re­ceive this kind of cel­e­bra­tion. Du­ra­tion: 2hr 30min, in­clud­ing in­ter­val. Tick­ets: $40-$60. Book­ings on­line. Un­til to­mor­row.

JHUNY-BOY BORJA

The tone changes glo­ri­ously in the sec­ond half, Show­man

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