A Song of Songs

The European premiere of A Song of Songs at the Park Theatre sees a work as mysterious in theatrical categorisation as the book on which it is based is in terms of religious literature.

Stunning performances, music and costumes

Its place in the Hebrew canon derives largely from its being ascribed to King Solomon, though many scholars, rightly dismissing that connection, treasure it as a unique piece of writing with its own merits. Some rabbis have taken it to be an expression of God’s love for Israel, while Christian scholars see it in various terms as representing the relationship between God and his Church or a Christian soul’s desire to be in union with God. Otherwise, it is simply an erotic and sensual portrayal of a woman overwhelmed by passion that has no counterpart.

Women dominate in the original poem and this is carried over into this production. Also, like the poem, there is little in terms of plot. Tirzah (Ofra Daniel ) is in a loveless marriage. Her Husband (Matthew Woodyatt) discovers she has an unseen Lover (Joaquin Pedro Valdes). Note that she is the only person to be given a name, further asserting that this work revolves around her. It is about her journey and striving for personal empowerment and freedom of sexual expression. Unless you see is as the development of a woman so besotted by the idea of an idyllic romance that she is driven mad, while having to deal with the ever-judgemental women of Jerusalem. That chorus is made up of accomplished dancers and vocalists Laurel Dougall, Rebecca Giacopazzi, Shira Kravitz and Ashleigh Schuman

If women are the main focus of A Song of Songs, then one woman also dominates the production. Ofra Daniel is not only the star of the show she is also its writer, composer and director. While some of the content seems to be variations on a theme, verging on the repetitive, the work as a whole is spectacular and her performance captivating. Her wild, impassioned portrayal of Tirzah is effectively contrasted by Woodyatt’s interpretation of Husband as a dour individual out of touch with his wife. Conversely, Valdes shows the Lover to be handsome, youthful and charming; qualities he employs effectively as a seducer.

Valdes also learned mugham, a classical Azerbaijani art form, the vocal aspects of which involve rising pitches of increasing intensity and sounds akin to aspects of flamenco and fado, in modal form as opposed to conventional scales. His command of this is very impressive and adds to the enigmatic nature of his character. With klezmer also thrown into the mix there is a certain incoherence in the blend, given the play’s location, but is works brilliantly and can be forgiven amidst the dramatic vocals and orchestration combined with spectacular choreography from Billy Mitchell which, along with the music, also draws heavily on flamenco, as do the vivid costumes with full skirts and tight bodices that raise the dramatic energy.

With musical supervision by Thomas F. Arnold, a highly talented quintet of improvisational musicians, features the renowned Ramon Ruiz on lead flamenco guitar, percussionist Antonio Romero, Ashley Blass on double bass, violinist Amy Price and Daniel Gouly on clarinets who play throughout. Other creatives include lighting designer Aaron J Dootson – who has one particularly wow moment – sound designer Andrew Johnson and set designer Marina Paz – whose simple arrangements make for flexibility and provide a plain backdrop for all the colour of the costumes.

With all the elements combined it could be said that A Song of Songs is a musical. It's certainly packed with stunning performances, music and costumes, but it's not in the western tradition to which we are accustomed.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

From an unprecedented collaboration of international artists comes A Song of Songs, a critically acclaimed musical play, and winner of The San Francisco Critics Award for the best new production. A Song of Songs fuses a world music score, Middle Eastern harmonics, dazzling choreography and an inspiring story of passion and awakening. Drawing on influences that span continents and millennia - from ancient feminist eroticism to the sounds of modern European Flamenco, Klezmer and the Middle-East.

A Song of Songs tells the story of a young wife (Ofra Daniel) in a loveless marriage who discovers she has an unseen admirer. Intrigued, she enters into a mysterious and fervent love affair, finding herself on a dazzling journey of sexual and personal empowerment.

A Song of Songs creative team features a multicultural collection of award-winning artists including: the prolific Israeli actress and composer Ofra Daniel and the Tony Award nominated director Christopher Renshaw (We Will Rock You, Zorro, The King and I, Taboo) and composed by Lior Ben-Hur (Sol Tevél) and Ofra Daniel (Behind Closed Doors, Edges, What if?, Kassit – The Musical – San Francisco).

This new production of A Song of Songs is a true multicultural theatrical event. The 2017 San Francisco premiere had audiences on their feet and was hailed as ‘extraordinary… lush… full of surprises… Highest Rating! This story seems ordained by gods!’ (San Francisco Chronicles).

__Access performances__

Captioned - Fri 31 May 7.30pm Audio described - Fri 7 Jun 7.30pm with touch tour at 6.30pm

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