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Review: Rotunda: Superb Salute to Courageous Anzacs.
“In Dominion Post”

Published on: 23 March 2015

Superb Salute to Courageous Anzacs.
Photo credit: Peter Meecham

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Review: Rotunda
The New Zealand Dance Company
Soundings Theatre
19-24 March 2015

In World War I, 18,166 New Zealanders died. Rotunda is a most powerful and moving evocation of the loss of life and devastation caused by this war.

It is the first full-length work for the New Zealand Dance Company by director Shona McCullagh and is choreographed by her, the company dancers and Staff Sergeant Tristan Mitchell for the New Zealand Army Band.

Integral to the work’s success and emotional resonance is the music played live by this band, conducted with great vigour by Staff Sergeant Phillip Johnston. The arrival of the band marching down the theatre aisles to the stage was very affecting, evoking so many departures and arrivals.

Musical director Don McGlashan collaborated with McCullagh, and arranged and composed music for the production. Included are splendid brass band music, compositions by composers John Ritchie, Alex Lithgow, Gareth Farr, John Psathas and Edward Elgar, as well as Coventry Carol, E Pari Ra, by Paraire Tomoana, and Blake’s Jerusalem. The latter was given a particularly beautiful rendition.

Rotunda takes us on an emotional journey as we see four excited young men get ready to go to war. It’s all a bit of a lark. We see them later as war’s ugly reality hits them. Then later still, as some of them return, traumatised, to loved ones who begin the healing process.

Images will long remain. A length of white material blown up and around the stage by multiple fans, writhing like a wraith, a memory, a wedding veil. The use of suspended white cloth on to which are projected shadows and images of the war, as light and sound explode around it, until it falls like a shroud.

The cast is superb – evenly matched and totally committed. Two pas de deux are outstanding. That of Tupua Tigafua and Christopher Ofanoa and Hannah Tasker-Poland and Gareth Okan.

The rotunda-like set design (Joe Bleakley), striking costumes (Jane Holland), and sensitive lighting design (Paul O’Brien) combine to make this an outstandingly cohesive production, of which New Zealand can be justifiably proud.

The Dominion Post