AFRICAN RHYTHMS AND A NIGHT AT THE OPERA
Venue: Playhouse, QPAC, until Tuesday, September 8 Reviewed: September 5 Reviewer: Phil Brown AFRICAN rhythms meet soaring operatic arias in a show that will surely become one of the big hits of the Brisbane Festival. Coup Fatal was one of the treats of the festival’s opening night on the weekend.
This amazing mixture of African and European music, dancing and theatrics, is one of the most joyous experiences you will ever have sitting down. (Mind you, we all stood at the end as the show got a standing ovation).
It’s infectious and surprising and the biggest surprise is countertenor Serge Kakudji, whose amazing voice just blows you way. It is strange, perhaps, to pair opera with African popular music but on the other hand, it’s all music, right? And this is world music like you’ve never heard it before.
Kakudji’s fellow performers note how different what he is doing is as they poke fun of his serious singing in a wonderfully rude and funny fashion on stage. It’s real Marx Brothers stuff.
There’s a lot of humour in this show which was created by trailblazing dance theatre maker Alan Platel. He worked with Kakudji, conductor and guitarist Rodrigues Vangama, composer Fabrizio Cassol and 12 incredible musicians from Kinshasa to create it. It’s an exuberant mix of baroque arias and Congolese pop, rock and jazz and it made its world premiere in Austria last year.
It caught the eye of Brisbane Festival artistic director David Berthold when he was in Europe and he has done us all a very big favour by bringing it to Brisbane.
It’s one of several shows focusing on the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo and I think it gives this year’s festival a nice geopolitical edge and social conscience. Berthold says he wanted to give audiences an insight into the troubled nation’s vibrant culture and Coup Fatal does this in the most amazing way.
Fashion is important in this show and the garish suits are crucial, inspired by the sapeurs, the famous Congolese dandies who strut the streets of Kinshasa wearing natty suits as their way of whistling in the dark. The performers on stage channel these dandies (some of them may be real sapeurs, who knows?) and show that even while war rages the human spirit remains undimmed.
The first half of the show is a musical journey and the Congolese musicians work through European baroque themes. At one point a Monteverdi overture becomes a duet for hi-life guitar and thumb piano. (There are a number of guys playing thump piano and they are amazing)
There’s some Bach, Vivaldi and Gluck sung by Serge Kakudji who struts and dances be- fore standing and delivering with that amazing, voice.
The second half moves more and there’s a wonderful finale with the guys all dressed in their sapeur suits having a party on stage, a party that spills over into the front rows at one stage.
Rodriguez Vangama is the linchpin musically and he is centrestage throughout playing his double- necked Gibson. One reviewer described him as a kind of Congolese Frank Zappa which is right on the money. He’s cool man, way cool and he can really play.
You have a couple of nights left to catch this show and I urge you to do so because it’s an experience you will never forget.
Party on dudes!