War Sum Up is an hypnotic palimpsest of music, entrancing vocals and stunning visuals.

A woman in modern-day dress enters playing a music box and drifts into beautiful and melancholy singing. Located at the front of the stage she attempts to continue with her life in spite of the dramas unfolding behind her. The theme is war, and the effect of war on individuals. These individuals are a soldier suffering from PTSD who eventually dies in war, a warrior killed in battle, and a spy who is captured but manages to escape after becoming a super-being.

Based on characters from Japanese Noh theatre, the cast of twelve wear Japanese-style costumes with a futuristic slant. Projected images range from ancient prints through vintage photographs to contemporary manga-style illustrations.

The clever double-storey set has both a back screen and a translucent scrim in front, these are used throughout to great effect. At times I felt as though I was watching a very lush movie, or else immersed in an art installation. Occasionally the experience was psychedelic as the cast seemed to move up and down amidst the overlapping images, at other times the images seemed almost as real as the performers.

Phrases from Japanese poetry would appear on a screen suspended high above the front of the stage. For me this was a distraction as it kept drawing my eye up and away from the performance Aesthetically I felt it was out of place. But this was a very small annoyance in what proved to be a stunning performance.

Presented by the Danish Hotel Pro Forma in collaboration with UK art-pop ensemble The Irrepressibles and Latvian composer Santa Ratniece, War Sum Up is performed by the Latvian Radio Choir. This was their Australian debut.
War Sum Up was performed at the Festival Theatre Playhouse on Nov 5th & 6th.


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