If that sounds like it’s from a song, you’re right. Tim Freedman wrote “No Aphrodisiac” in 1997 about his girlfriend who was living in another city at the time, it was considered the breakthrough song of The Whitlams, an Australian rock band formed in the 1990’s. The line from the song is the title of a new musical with music and lyrics by Freedman.
I have enjoyed his music for many years. Michael has been an avid fan of The Whitlams and Freedman for just as long, we get along to as many of Tim Freedman’s performances as we can.
Several times now we have seen Freedman at Bennetts Lane in Melbourne, a jazz club. He has a long playlist, and while he threads a narrative between his songs during his live performances they really aren’t related to each other in any way.
Truth, beauty and a picture of you is a musical performance based on the lyrics of Freedman and it picks up some of his key songs from The Whitlams. At first glance it would seem an odd thing to try and weave a story from a bunch of songs from one band that don’t appear to have any obvious connections.
When Michael became aware of the upcoming performance by the Hayes Theatre Company he was eager to see the show. It soon became obvious that the show wouldn’t be travelling outside of Sydney, so we booked tickets and headed to Sydney for the weekend.
The Hayes Theatre Company provides space for small-scale new musical theatre. The venue is a rather intimate space for around 120 people.
The first thing that struck me as we went to our seats is just how tiny the performance space is. Yet the stage was decorated with various props and seemed to be set up for a full-size band! The lighting was subdued and we sat in eager anticipation amongst the foggy haze. As the lights dimmed we were treated to a top-notch light and sound show.
The story put together by Alex Broun takes the music of Freedman and weaves a tale of a struggling band from the 90’s. Three mates form the band and from the outset we get a sense of conflict between them. We join them at a gig in the pub as they belt out their songs and then we get to join them backstage after the performance as the conflict between them becomes real and palpable. The story line jumps forward 20 years when Tom, played by Ross Chisari, the son of one of the band members comes to the city to seek out the story of his now dead father. Tom has idolised his father that he never knew and wants to connect his version of his dad with the real life version. Who better to do it with than members of the band still alive. Between the often funny and poignant lines mixed in with the music of Freedman the story takes us on a journey of discovery for Tom, as he tries to discover the truth about his father and the band he was once part of.
At first I wondered whether the story was about The Whitlams and during the intermission we tried to link the story with the facts we knew about the real band. We gave up and decided that while there might be some vague connections, the story is really just a story of self-discovery for the character Tom and the ‘leader’ of the band Anton (Ian Stenlake). All the characters in the play have something to find out about themselves, some puzzle between their younger selves of 20 years ago and where they are today.
Freedman’s music tells the tale for us and for the first time we get to hear the music sung by the cast as we join Tom on his journey of love and discovery. In surprising ways new life is breathed into the music as the lyrics of the songs continue to move the storyline along. Suddenly classic songs like “Blow up the Pokies” and “Fall For You” take on new meaning as we see them in new scenarios. The fit between story and lyrics is a near perfect match.
The cast of 5 is joined by a musical ensemble that includes strings and percussion. Broun’s use of the music and the story moves you forward in a parallel from the 1990’s to the modern-day and we see the band fall apart as Tom’s life seems to fall apart at the same time. We end up at the top of the building as the life of one of the old band members hangs in the balance. The cast create a real sense of tension in the theatre as we wait to see how it will work out.
The production is directed by Neil Gooding, the musical director is Andrew Worboys. It’s based on an idea by Alex Broun and the music and lyrics are by Tim Freedman.
The show has a short season at The Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point from May 9 to June 1 2014. It was a delight to watch, a good steady musical with a great cast and a fantastic script.
And just as an extra bonus, the night we attended, Tim Freedman sat right in front of us!