PLAYWAVE CREATIVE REVIEW: DRESDEN
Reviewed by Nicole Pingon
Richard Wagner and Adolf Hitler. Two figures ingrained in our history, separated by a generation, yet deeply connected by their passion, drive and beliefs. Or are they?
Dresden delves into the stark similarities and differences between Wager and Hitler to showcase the power of art and passion, and the way it can change lives, even if it’s not for the better.
Afterall, what is passion without love?
A new work written by Justin Fleming and directed by Suzanne Millar, Dresden brings an epic intergenerational story to the heart of Kings Cross. Interwoven with an investigation of our past, a love for opera and questions of his artistry, Fleming creates a captivating story that explores our rich history and its influence on our understanding of life as we know it today.
Are we supposed to blame Wagner for Hitler’s uprising? Is anti-Semitism the same before and after the Holocaust? What does legitimacy mean to those in positions of power?
We are faced with many perplexing ideas and questions in this intellectual work, fluidly shifting between Wager and Hitler’s time as they are face the highs, lows and everything in between on their journey towards the legacy they carry today.
The interplay of Dresden’s outstanding design transformed the intimate KXT into a fascinating realm of Wagner and Hitler’s creativity, philosophy and passion. Benjamin Brockman’s lighting design was impeccable, working in perfect alignment with Patrick Howe’s grand set design, guiding audiences through time and space with admirable control.
When accompanied by Reinzi’s eloquent score, audiences are taken straight into what felt like a high-ceiling, 19th Century opera theatre. Sound designer, Max Lambert sourced sound from Wagner’s libretto in all its epic orchestral beauty, successfully supporting the atmosphere, and giving audiences a spine-tingling glimpse into the sounds that transformed young Hitler, for better or for worse.
All five performers are to be commended, each bringing a strong and distinct energy to their characters. It’s riveting seeing dubious figures of our history brought to life with an authenticity and depth that challenges our initial feelings of contempt towards those with morally questionable pasts.
Dresden resonated with me in ways I didn’t expect going into a dramedy about Wagner and Hitler. Fleming asks a lot of the questions we ask ourselves as artists and consumers of art, allowing the work to extend far beyond the world of opera and 19th - 20th Century Europe, and right into the now with our own uncertainties at the forefront.
Can you separate art from the artist? What is the responsibility of the artist? Is all art good art? What even constitutes to art?
What if the Holocaust was Hitler’s idea of an immersive, participatory performance art piece? My goodness, isn’t that an awful thought.
While this work was set in the past, it didn’t feel like a period piece or historical drama. Rather, it was a nuanced look through an artist’s eyes at questions of context, purpose and legacy that have remained uncertain throughout history.
Dresden carries itself with the flair and grandeur of a main stage production, without feeling pretentious - a balance that is often hard to strike. Every aspect of this is production is brilliant, and when they all connected, it was sublime. Who would have guessed such an epic work of opera and intellect would land in Kings Cross for all of us Sydneysiders to see!