By Karen Hansord
The third year musical theatre students of WAAPA (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts) lived up to their reputation as some of Australia’s most promising young actors with their extraordinary performance of the genre defining rock musical ‘Hair’.
This drama not only defined an important part of American and world history, but also defined a generation. ‘Hair’ was debuted during the height of the Vietnam War (1968), and its songs, such as ‘Aquarius’, ‘Good Morning Starshine’ and ‘Let the Sun Shine In’, have become anthems to the hippie counterculture of the 60s. It is important to remember that ‘Hair’ not only revolved around the hippies, but also served as commentary on the horrors that both the soldiers and the people of Vietnam faced.
As the audience enters the theatre a hazy scene welcomes them. A ringing noise can be heard throughout the venue and as the audience settles in their seats the performers come out one by one and begin to meditate. Finally, when the audience is silent, the lights come on and the scene is set in a park.
We are then introduced to a group of longhaired bohemian youths who identify themselves as children of the ‘Age of Aquarius’. The first character to be introduced is Berger (Daniel Berini) a charming, extroverted free spirit who goes without pants for the first half of the play. We are then introduced to Woof (Stephen Madsen) a supposed expert in sexual practices, Sheila (Sophie Stokes) an enthusiastic political activist and Jeanie (Eloise Cassidy) a pregnant hippie who wishes that her love Claude was her child’s father.
It is then we are introduced to Claude (Du Toit Bredenkamp) a boy who is the ‘most beautiful beast in all the forest’ and who is soon to be drafted to serve in the war.
Through amazingly sung songs (special credit to Eloise Cassidy and Shannen Chin-Quan for their exceptional voices), the audience is submerged in the experience of the hippie culture. However, there is a particularly powerful scene in that pulls the rug from under the audience and gives us a stark reminder of what happened in Vietnam and those that protested against it.
Perhaps it is my Generation Y sensibilities, but I did not find the nudity controversial. However, as part of a youth culture that is often reprimanded for being selfish and unmotivated, I found the themes of ‘Hair’ remained relevant today.
The performance not only entertained, it made one reflect upon bigger issues . I find it a mark of real talent and entertainment when a show makes you forget how long it goes for. Bravo!
Hair runs until March 22.