Contributors from WRITERESPONSE share their thoughts on the performances, exhibitions & events that make up


Friday, August 27, 2010

Jane Franklin: An Examined Life

Presented by Silkweed
Albert Hall, Thursday 26th August

Lady Jane Franklin serves as a figure of fascination as much as anyone in Tasmanian history. Unlike the fondly remembered bushrangers, she was a member of the establishment, but her reforming instincts have endeared her to a wide range of Tasmanians.
This is reflected in the way she continues to be commemorated in the arts. Richard Flanagan's most recent novel, Wanting, explored the darker, frustrated side of Lady Franklin's life: her relationship with the aboriginal girl Mathinna and her attempts to resurrect her husband's reputation following the unsavoury revelations that followed his final arctic voyage.

The musical ensemble Silkweed have taken a lighter touch. Whilst acknowledging the tragic notes that appear later in her life, Jane Franklin's story becomes a kind of parable of emancipation. Their multidisciplinary approach uses music, historical content, projected slides, dramatic re-enactments and extracts from Lady Franklin's journals to provide a short biographical journey; from her hunger for learning as a young woman, through her remarkable travels, her marriage to Sir John Franklin and the reforms she attempted to initiate in Van Diemen's Land.

In a performance such as this, it is difficult to balance these components effectively. While Sara Cooper, assisted by the quality of writing in the journals, brings the character of Jane Franklin to life, the other disciplines provide limited additional appreciation of their subject. Yes, the historical reflections set the journals in their context, but the songs trouble the pacing of the show and the writing and performance of the dramatic elements lack polish and depth.

The production could perhaps have been more successful with a more restrained approach. Focusing on the journals and historical components, with accompaniment from Silkweed's chamber-folk style music, may have made for a more reflective performance.


Kylie Elizabeth Eastley said...

Great insight Ben. Look forward to reading more of your work

Anonymous said...

We saw this show last night ....I think it was the second performance...and were totally mesmerised!!
the music was FANTASTIC and the story totally compelling....apparently these guys are touring later this year....I say, catch it if you possibly can!

churchstudiofranklin said...

On Friday Night we saw Jane Franklin: A life Remembered by Silkweed. It was an engrossing multimedia performance that showcased the musical talents of Silkweed, but also demonstrated they knew how to tell a story.

The audience on the night I saw the show were taken on a journey and were enchanted by the combination of images, narrative and original music.

Whilst Silkweed come from a musical background the addition of Sarah, the actor who played Lady Jane Franklin appeared to encourage the musicians to try out their acting skills also.

This enabled the musicians to play with the narrative structure in their roles- for example as Jane' sisters. In doing so, humour was brought to a show that did not always offer a pretty picture of Tasmania.

The combination of projected images, music, and narrative worked to offer the ensemble opportunities that show cased individual talents and also demonstrated their cohesiveness as a group.

There was always something to watch and listen to, but it would have been easier if the performers could have been seen clearly all the time. They really needed a stage, or raked seating for the audience, preferably at a venue designed for such shows.

However, the sound mix was good, even if the heads in front of us interfered somewhat. And that criticism aside, it was a real highlight of the conference for me.