Alexander is composed about his latest theatre role
Alexander Mitchell's violin skills were on show last year during the second production in a series of 17th and early 18th century plays by the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild.
For this year's third instalment he has also composed the score and will lead the ensemble. "Musically speaking I guess the buck stops with me," he observed, with no hint of trepidation.
That's probably not surprising though, given that he graduated from the Elder Conservatorium in 2005 with First Class Honours in a Bachelor of Music (Composition) and his Masters thesis is examining "composition with collaboration".
Early 17th century theatre provides great scope for just such collaborations between composer and director, with the songs and music crucial to maintaining the tempo of the play.
Alexander Kirk directed last year's production of London Cuckolds and is at the helm again for The Custom of the Country, a tragicomedy both deplored and adored at the time for its bawdiness.
"Alex approached me about writing the score and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss," Mitchell said. "We let the idea develop then about six months ago things became more serious."
Kirk sourced lyrics from the period, which he then handed to Mitchell to set to music. The result is a dozen songs ranging in length from one to four minutes plus longer sections of incidental music for the overture, introductions and interval.
The result, Mitchell said, was more like a musical than a modern-day soundtrack, with each song introduced by an actor's cue and reflecting the mood and sentiment of the text. "Alex did a fantastic job sourcing the lyrics and it is hard to believe they were not written specifically for this play," he said. "We did not change or edit them."
Mitchell said the creative process was challenging but rewarding and he is more than happy with the result. He is not a specialist in the music of the period, but has always liked it. "I tried to approach it with an open mind," he said, noting that the hardest part was "getting into the zone with such a large body of work".
Mind you, it was not all he has had on his plate, with his Masters research taking him as far afield as Shanghai and Taipei to work with choreographers, dancers and directors. His work with The Custom of the Country will form part of his Masters, which pleases him and the Guild.
Mitchell will again perform with a cellist and singers, but both tuned and untuned percussion have been added this year to add even more texture to the score.
The Custom of the Country will play at the Little Theatre, Cloisters, at the University of Adelaide's North Terrace Campus on 7 and 8 June at 7pm. All tickets are $10 and can be booked through the Guild office on (08) 8303 5999 or the website: www.adelaide.edu.au/theatreguild
Story by Nick Carne