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Festival review: The Lost and Found Orchestra

Adelaide Festival

With traffic cones as trumpets, musical saws, water-cooler drums and an eclectic array of other invented instruments, The Lost and Found Orchestra creates a musical extravaganza that boggles the mind.

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Imagine if an extremely talented bunch of orchestral musicians were given a steam punk makeover, raided the salvage yard and then joined with some physical comedians, a few hundred choral singers and a “master of spectacle” and you’ll get some idea of the official opening night show of the 2018 Adelaide Festival.

Occupying the same Elder Park stage where music icon Grace Jones wowed festival-goers a few days earlier, the Lost and Found Orchestra looks chaotic – but in a beautiful kind of way – and never sounds anything less than symphonic.

It is the result of a collaboration between Luke Cresswell (creator of the percussion phenomenon STOMP) and theatre and event director Nigel Jamieson (Sydney Olympics opening ceremony), scaled up for the Adelaide Festival from a project Cresswell originally created for the Brighton Festival in the UK.

Anticipation builds early as several thousand audience members of all ages settle in around the park, facing a stage on which some instruments are exposed – including huge pipes and “kitchen tympani” (large drums made from industrial soup cauldrons) – but others remain covered.

The show begins with several musicians playing percussion on instrument cases, and quickly builds as more performers converge playing all manner of objects that show astounding inventiveness and musical skill.

There’s traffic cones, oil drums, rubbish bins, water coolers, wine bottles, bike horns, exercise balls, plastic funnels, pipes and many more “found” instruments, along with a bonkers collection of props such as filing cabinets, shopping trolleys and a door.

Photo: Tony Lewis / Adelaide Festival

The visually spectacular performance takes place not just on the centre stage, but on both sides of it and around the park as well. At one point, the Elder Park rotunda is illuminated in blue light, revealing percussionists playing instruments in a container filled with water; at another, hundreds of local musicians approach down the aisles playing plastic bottles like maraccas, twirling umbrellas with lights and carrying fishing rods with bells.

It’s all so cleverly choreographed and well-paced, with comedic and physical theatre elements adding to the enjoyment as the performers throw their instruments to each other and the resident “clown” drinks from the bottles he’s supposed to be blowing into or tangles syphon hoses attached to musicians’ funnels.

Photo: Tony Lewis / Adelaide Festival

Cresswell is an energetic, bouncing conductor who enhances the theatricality of the show with his antics and co-opts the audience as the forth section of the orchestra for one piece of music.

Hundreds of Adelaide choir singers join the musicians for a triumphant, all-in symphonic and vocal climax that ensures the crowd leaves on a high after a highly entertaining show that shows used objects can be anything but rubbish.

The final performance of The Lost and Found Orchestra is in Elder Park tonight. Read more InDaily Adelaide Festival stories and reviews here.

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