Blog / Nigel Jamieson on Reflections on Gallipoli

Nigel Jamieson on Reflections on Gallipoli

Posted on 11 Mar 2015 by Neall Kriete

Large-scale theatre specialist Nigel Jamieson took some time out of today’s rehearsal for #ACO15 Reflections on Gallipoli to chat to us about the production.

One of the most thrilling moments in creating a new work, is when suddenly something that has been imagined in your head for so many months, suddenly takes flesh before your eyes. Today was just such a day in the creation of ‘Reflections of Gallipoli’.

It was the first time we have heard the music played by the orchestra, fused with the projected images and the words of the young Australians, describing their experiences on the cliffs of Gallipoli.  One can never quite tell how the ingredients will mix in the bowl. But this case? Well it was pretty thrilling. Having traversed this terrain several times before, I was surprised by just how many times I found myself moved to tears. I am optimistic it will be a memorable evening.

We started with the opening Bartók  – unbelievably intense in the close confines of the studio. I was knocked out and reminded what a truly marvellous, passionate, physical orchestra the ACO are. Really no one else quite like them. The piece gives them a fantastic workout. Watching Richard at work, its unimaginable that he has been the orchestra’s director for 25 years. He maintains the verve and energy of some new wunderkind in the first flush of youth and still looks as if he’s just got off a surfboard – which he invariably has.

It’s going to be hard till we get into the theatre to work out the balance in this opening between visually focusing on the orchestra or the wonderful early fill footage of the mobilisation across Australia and Turkey. But it feels we are blessed with lots of riches. If only we had a little more time in the theatre to make these final choices.

We then looked at the Landing. I was a bit concerned that Carl’s underscoring of the landing text might be too rhythmic. But I think he and Neil were right. It works well and is enormously powerful as we fade to silence to listen to Alec Gilpen’s devasting testimony about collecting the pieces of his young friend’s face – the boy ‘with the smile of a girl’.

One of the real treats was to hear the new setting of Çanakkale Türküsü. This is a powerful traditional Turkish song – by a young Turkish boy lamenting his lost youth and spilled blood. It is usually sung as a Military March. But in this new setting, exquisitely sung by Taryn, it is set as the voice of the young boy and his grieving mother and sister. Watching the faces of young Turkish boys, scrubbed clean and marching off to their terrible fates, was the first time of many that I found myself tearing up.

All up I had been concerned whether we had got the balance between the Anzac and Turkish material right – but the Turkish sequences have proved really powerful and the settings of the Turkish material wonderful. So pleased.

Other highlights? Well of course the Elgar is ravishing. The Turkish composer Kodalli’s Adagio is incredibly special – hard to believe just how hard it was to track down a score of it. I suspect it will have a lot more outings after this. Sean has done a particularly wonderful job in the slow fades between the faces of Turkish and Allied troops where the merging from one to the other becomes imperceptible.

Carl Vine’s ‘Our Sons As Well’ is thrilling. As a setting of Atatürk’s famous promise to the mothers of Australia, that they will treat the graves and memories of the fallen Allied soldiers as if they were their own, I thought it would be a piece about resolution and reconciliation. But written from the perspective of those mothers, it does not only contain peace. Its central section is fused with Fury. Remarkable.

We just managed to get to the final Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending. It’s taken a while to get there, in terms of pacing and the speed of the cross fades of the images. But listening to the Lark Ascending, to one after another simple portraits of hopeful faces setting off to war – kids and young dads – fathers and husbands – who were never to see their loved ones again or find out what else life might have had in store with them, was immensely powerful.

Sacrifice ? Or sheer bloody waste?

Certainly returning to this central myth of the Australian psyche, its lessons seem clear – to never blunder in behind some imperial powers half-baked ideas, the horror and waste of war, how if we are to risk our most precious commodity, the lives of our young people, we need to be pretty certain of exactly what we feel we might achieve.

So … tomorrow polish. Then off to Canberra!

Reflections on Gallipoli
14–27 March 2015

Richard Tognetti, large-scale theatre specialist, Nigel Jamieson, and one of Australia’s greatest storytellers, Neil Armfield join forces to present this heartfelt exploration of our ANZAC story through music, spoken text and visual imagery, where an Australian’s elegy for his friend brushes shoulders with the words of the father of modern Turkey.

Richard Tognetti Director & Violin
Neil Armfield Director
Nigel Jamieson Deviser
Sean Bacon Video Designer
Matthew Cox Lighting Designer
Taryn Fiebig Soprano
Yalin Ozucelik Actor
Nathaniel Dean Actor