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Midsummer (A Play With Songs)

Covering a wild weekend by two very flawed individuals, Midsummer (A Play With Songs) plays at the Heath Ledger Theatre from Saturday, November 9 to Sunday, November 24. We caught up Music Director Ben Collins to talk about a show with pub rock, a bag of cash and Japanese rope bondage.

Midsummer is something a little different for the Black Swan Theatre Company, presenting a more fringe-like show than their standard fare. Originally written by David Grieg with music by George McIntyre (of Scottish indie band, Ballboy), it covers a lost weekend in Edinburgh between two mismatched lovers. “Because it is a fringe show, there is a lot of swearing and sexual reference, and a bit of sexual shadow play. It’s a huge amount of fun.” states Collins.

Directed by Damien Lockwood, Midsummer tells the tale of Helena (Georgina Gayler), a divorce lawyer having an affair with a married man, and Bob (Brendan Hanson), a “complete dropkick” of a criminal that has 15 grand in cash and the desire to have a good time, as they  meet “haphazardly in a bar.” What follows is a weekend involving hangovers, ruined weddings, Japanese rope bondage, and a penis puppet. “The characters are very virtuosic and elastic in the way they have to represent a number of different characters and tell the story. So it’s not just.. from their perspective, they become other characters as well.”

A WAAPA trained saxophonist, Collins has been with the Black Swan State Theatre Company since cutting his teeth on The Hot Bed Ensemble (“ an umbrella project for emerging artists”) back in 2009. With Midsummer (A Play With Songs) he takes up the role of Music Director and Sound Designer. “It’s not a musical, it’s definitely a play with songs, which is fantastic from my perspective. I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but I really enjoy theatre and I love the journey a song can take you on. So it’s a beautiful melding of the two things.” Collins proclaimed. “The songs don’t reflect necessarily on the play, but make a nice moment here and there, a bit of a comment. They are not a big transition like a musical is, they’re not the turning round of an idea.”

Originally written with the actors also providing the musical interludes, this version has a four piece band on stage to provide a more natural transition to the music. “It was very, very disruptive to suddenly have two people pick up guitars and play them. We’ve got a band on stage that is sort of a reflection of a pub band, but they are also under a street light, so it is not necessarily determined what it is.”

However, this change has allowed Collins to rework pieces from their more simplistic origin. He has “…pulled them apart, played around with them a bit and tried to re-harmonise them, add base movement and create a different feel. The treatment has been working out how to get more colour in the music, rather than the aesthetic of relying on just two guitars and two voices.”

For tickets and session times for Midsummer (A Play With Songs) head here.

_ DAVID O’CONNELL

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