[THEATRE: Review] Applespiel Make A Band
It’s Splendour weekend and everyone who reckons they take music seriously is probably on Belongil Fields gyrating to Azealia Banks, and good on them. For the rest of us, though, contemporary performance group Applespiel provided an excellent alternative: a live-action documentary about a band called Applespiel.
Using four cameras and clever staging, Carriageworks’ Bay 19 becomes a recording studio, a stadium, the scene of a hip-hop music video, and everything in between. Operated via remote control and a fully visible control panel, the four cameras feed live to the screen suspended above the space, creating the film as we watch it being shot. They splice together interviews, concert footage, studio shots and backstage candids to build 90 minutes of ‘footage’ – all performed live onstage – that is hilarious, accurate and touching.
The show works because these guys genuinely love their product. Small details – costume references, gags about specific instruments, turns of phrase – are the work of native observers. They’re not blind to the pretentions of musicians or the music documentary genre, and these come in for some biting parody, which left the audience howling with recognition. But they’re not shooting to kill, and the satire can turn on a dime to simple and heart-rending sincerity. The music is genuine (and genuinely catchy) as well, with an entire album’s worth of songs (referencing everyone from Kanye to Florence Welch) written and performed by various combinations of the eight Applespiel members
The highs and lows of Applespiel (the band) aren’t quite as extreme as they could be – no one dies of an overdose or wins a Grammy – but perhaps that’s because Applespiel (the contemporary performance group) haven’t quite got to either extreme yet either. It’s a bit of a running gag that the band and the people performing them might be the same in important ways, and this in turn makes the show less about a band called Applespiel and more about any person who ever tried to sit down with another person to make something beautiful. It’s honest, witty and innovative work from the rising stars of contemporary performance.