One of the things I love about the Adelaide Cabaret Festival is the unique and exclusive glimpse we have into new or developmental works.
The Fig Tree by Gillian Cosgriff is one of those.
With her famously sharp-witted lyrics and on the nose musical comedy, she presented a first reading of her brand new musical, The Fig Tree.
Partly inspired by Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, and a Sylvia Plath quote from The Bell Jar, Cosgriff workshopped scenes and songs with three other local artists over 5 days to bring excerpts of this new work exploring relationships, choice, irresolution, monogamy, figs, parallel universes and love.
The tree in question is both representational and physical, and as we learn with each fig plucked from the tree, an alternate universe is created for both the female characters.
Showcasing Cosgriff as the protagonist, Liv, Jamie Hornsby as her loving and homely partner Tom, Lachlan Williams as the young summer love Elliot and Philippa Lynas [and her pipes!] as Liv’s recently divorced sister, Tess, these four embodied the characters and music so well, that I don’t think I can picture anyone else originating these roles.
The incomparable Virginia Gay directed and featured as narrator, reading the stage direction in between.
Alex Wignall on keys and Jordan White’s pre-recorded arrangements were on point, as was the simple and effective lighting.
We follow Liv and Tom’s journey on deciding whether or not to have a baby; Tom is ready to take the next step, Liv not so much. She suggests a 6 week break to ‘sow their wild oats’ before settling down for the subsequent stage in their life. They set up ground rules – no feelings, no hooking up with someone either Tom or Liv know.
Unfortunately for Liv, she bumps into Elliot, one of Tom’s former students, and they hit it off immediately.
Cosgriff is a mastermind wordsmith; creating lyrics and music that is equal parts conversational and charming, and acerbic and sarcastic; a skill reserved by few.
With a pop/jazz feel, each performer had a song which was uniquely theirs; the phrasing and style suited to the actor, but also to the nuances of the character.
The audience were left with a conundrum; who does Liv end up with? We are asked to decide and share our ending with the cast and creatives post show.
The Fig Tree is a beautiful new Australian work, which sits in our modern landscape so exquisitely. Producers take note, this is one to develop and will quickly become an Australian classic.