Last night I went to His Majesty’s Theatre to see The West Australian Opera’s rendition of The Riders. Opera is something I have always felt I would easily connect with but it wasn’t until last year that I saw my first live performance. No matter the language or the story, opera transports you into a new world, which melodically emphasises emotion. The intent of each character is clear whether you understand what they are saying or not.
Originally a book by Tim Winton, The Riders takes audiences around the globe following Scully, and his daughter Billie, in pursuit of his wife Jennifer. When Jennifer abandoned Billie on the plane before take off I found it difficult to watch. Leaving a child who is maybe ten or twelve alone on a twenty hour flight is something I never thought a parent would be able to do. From this point of the show onwards I felt great sympathy for Billie and even more for Scully. Twice in the second half of the show Billie suggests that when her mother beckons, Scully follows like a dog. You can’t argue with her logic. Billie is the shining light in the show for Scully and ultimately saves his life.
I was thoroughly impressed with the set design for the show. About fifty wooden workbenches covered the stage, mainly piled to either side of the stage. Other than a suitcase, several candles and some glasses, they were the only props utilised. Projections and lighting were used to change the atmosphere, but the effective versatility of the set came down to its minimalistic nature. At one point hanging benches, made to look like horses, loomed above the stage. Alongside the costuming, score and lighting, this scene was successful in introducing The Riders in an eery and frightening fashion.
What I love most about shows of this style is that such a small cast (6) can produce amazing harmonies and quality ensemble sections. Each of the cast members demonstrated clarity of voice and versatility. Particularly Wade Kernot, Fiona Campbell and Matthew Lester, who were seen diving in and out of characters, quick changing into a new role in seconds. The trio moved in sync and worked wonderfully together as the backbone of the performance. Although both James Clayton (Scully) and Emma Pearson (Jennifer) were great, Rosanna Radici stole the show with her portrayal of Billie. Radici transformed a simple role of a child into a relatable character, striving to survive being abandoned by one parent and being lead on a wild goose chase by the other. I hope to see her perform again in the future!
The Riders is showing at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth this week only, with shows on the 14th, 15th and 16th of April. For more information head to http://www.waopera.asn.au/2016-season/the-riders/.