Moving celebration of an extraordinary musical talent
Dubboo: Life of a Songman Carriageworks and Bangarra Dance Theatre. Carriageworks Bay 17, Sydney, December 5.
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.
The tone changes gloriously in the second half, Showman