Adelaide Fringe. Under The Microscope. nthspace Gallery. 20 Feb 2019
30,000 Notes is a touching and absorbing love story, but not your run-of-the-mill boy meets girl romance. This story is about something pure and deep: it is about that indefinable connection with someone who shows you unconditional love, and, interestingly, how that connection is strengthened and even redefined when that person is physically lost to you. That person can be a grandparent, a crush or your first real love, and gender is irrelevant. 30,000 Notes is also a coming-out story.
Written and performed by Josh Belperio, 30,000 Notes tells the story of Belperio’s personal discovery of love, and the script is pasted onto the wall of the performance space for all to see. It takes the form of hundreds and hundreds of written notes and, importantly, musical scores, because first and foremost Belperio is a classically trained composer and musician. The notes – words and musical notation – chronicle Belperio’s myriad thoughts over the years on diverse topics, but mostly on his journey in finding, receiving and giving love. Belperio moves around the performance space with choreographic style and selects and removes notes from the wall, glances at them, and builds a narrative that is funny, quirky, sad, but always uplifting. It is almost too joyous at times.
Much of the narrative is about his beloved grandmother who has passed away. As Belperio ponders how he remembers her, what role his notes have in that, and how his memories might change in the future, we hear music – his own compositions – that have been inspired by his sense of loss and love. Magna Gloria is one such piece: it is deeply affecting music and in it can be found the influences of both modern composers (such as Eric Whiteacre and Morton Lauridson), and those from the classical and baroque periods (such as Palestrina and Bach). Whatever the supposed influences may or may not be, it is Belperio’s own music and it is good. A Thousand Winds is another fine example of his compositional skills. It is Belperio’s musical response to pondering the mystery of what happens when we die: do we go somewhere? Or do we just remain in the minds of those who have a strong connection with us? The music is evocative, richly orchestrated and has numerous layers. It comes across as complex or as simple as the listener perceives it to be, just as the concept it is responding to can also be considered in simple terms or as something much deeper.
Belperio’s soundscape is scored for a string quartet and a sixteen voice standard choir (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), and it has been superbly recorded and produced by Neville Clark. The quality makes one think the musicians are actually somewhere in the performance space with us, but unseen.
Belperio is dressed in white jeans and a white T-shirt and is frequently silhouetted against the wall of notes by the impressively innovative lighting plot (Mark Oakley). As various notes are removed from the wall they are first highlighted by cleverly focussed lighting. At other times Belperio is bathed in video footage from old home movies of his childhood that have been lovingly filmed by his grandparents. It almost seems that Belperio is spectating his own life and forming a view about how he is living it. A key part of his life is his relationship with his partner Matthew Briggs, who is also the director of the production. By day, Dr Briggs is a research medical scientist, but by night he is one helluva producer!
The performance culminates in another of Belperio’s compositions – one that he has written to celebrate and express the love he feels for Matthew. The joy on Belperio’s face as he acknowledges the technicians and especially Matthew at the curtain call is joyous, and touching.
The technical aspects of this production are excellent. The lighting is an essential ingredient and is superbly designed and executed. Sound production is also of a very high quality. The walls of notes, and the skill with which they are navigated by Belperio is awesome. The ‘printed’ program comprises a cardboard wallet containing two microscope glass slides onto which the credits have been written – a unique memento that serves to remind us that the production company, which was created by Briggs and Belperio is called Under the Microscope theatre company.
There is much material in this production, and when the season is over and there is time for reflection, Belperio might consider making some judicious cuts to make the narrative tighter and ready for its next season, which it surely merits.
There is time to catch this wonderful production with performances every day from 19 February to 16 March at 9pm except on Sundays and Mondays. It is a generous 90 minutes in duration, which for the most part goes by quickly.
Highly recommended. There is nothing else quite like it in the Fringe.
When: 19 Feb to 16 Mar
Where: nthspace Gallery