★★★½☆ A hybrid of poetry, lecture and literary fancy makes for a highly melodramatic evening.
It was after experiencing Tama Matheson’s (actor/director) Brisbane work on Johann Sebastian Bach that the well-known classical guitarist Karin Schaupp approached him about collaborating on a work concerning Spain and her instrument. After thinking about Cervantes’ errant knight, Don Quixote, it was Spain’s legendary lover Don Juan (or Giovanni) whom they settled upon with great effect.
Rather than deal with the more familiar romancer of more than a thousand woman, Matheson suggested George, Lord Byron’s more flawed character, who is instead pursued by many women whilst bringing to bear elements from the notorious poet himself – a man who was supposed “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.
With a generous selection of texts taken from a variety of sources – including the poet’s letters as well as sections from his long and incomplete saga, the character is brought seductively to life and is aided and abetted by a wide and harmonious tableau of Hispanic guitar music ranging from Tárrega and Turina through Pujol to the Brazilian, Heitor Villa-Lobos. Together they create a highly evocative character and the world in which he inhabited. Schaupp proves no slouch either when it comes to acting and together she and Matheson, with his fine background in Shakespeare and direction, present a well-structured work that is rather difficult to categorise.
For here lies much more than the 19th-century poetry-meets-music evenings that Richard Strauss had designed to present Tennyson’s Enoch Arden, for example. Together the performers present a highly melodramatic evening – a hybrid of poetry, lecture and literary fancy from which it’s often difficult to pick myth from fact – something that indeed adds to the status of such a mythical character like Don Juan (herein pronounced in the English manner as per Byron and Shaw’s Man and Superman, thereby assisting the rhyming here rather than as Wuan).
Not doubt as this evening continues to play, this ingenious celebration will encourage further cuts, evolving into a unique collaboration that can inspire many others.