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Moving tribute to WWI soldiers

Festivals

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Lane Hinchcliffe’s beloved grandfather once advised him that that his ‘curse’ of an obsession with music could also be his greatest gift.

We learned this at the Fringe this year when his show about the inception of The Front gave Adelaide audiences a taste of what was to come when the musical reached fruition at this year’s Cabaret Festival. Lane was wise to heed his grandfather’s encouragement, and the culmination of 13 years of extraordinary work was finally and stunningly staged just once at the festival to a packed house yesterday afternoon.

Given the lack of sufficient grant funding for a lengthy rehearsal period, we were advised at the start that some of the cast would still need to be ‘on the book’, but the performances were so compelling that this was rarely a distraction as characters moved effortlessly through the developing plots, through the larrikin humour of the soldiers to the poignancy of families torn apart in this bloodiest of wars.

Lane’s wide-ranging musical score and the complex but well-developed plot lines (connected to the present day by a family of three generations of men visiting the cemetery at Fromelles to find a relative’s grave) would easily grace a much larger stage and certainly a longer run. Yet this often understated production with a simple black backcloth, titles to indicate scene changes, and all the cast on stage, seated until their cues, gave an intimate and inclusive feel that is rare in the theatre.

All the cast gave outstanding performances and their individual characterisations both through dialogue and song brought this musical to the hearts of their audience with power and sensitivity.

Supporting the cast was a superbly professional orchestra, also on stage but under low lighting to one side, enhancing the action of the play and accentuating the mood.

Lighting was used to good effect. The use of the chairs on stage in the final scene to bear candles, also reflected in lighting behind the backcloth, was a particularly moving reference to the many thousands of those who never returned from Fromelles.

Lane took the curtain call looking slightly overwhelmed as the audience (many in tears at the events of the final scene) stood immediately and unanimously to show their enthusiastic appreciation. I think his grandfather would have been enormously proud.

The Front’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival season has now finished. The show was part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which continues until June 20.

 More Adelaide Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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