The Adelaide Festival Theatre’s Artspace Gallery is transformed from a natural light-filled gallery to a makeshift cinema with blocker curtains and a small cinema screen for the Australian premiere of Lumières! at the Adelaide French Festival 2019. The creation of French singer/ songwriter Ellie James, Lumières! is the first solo project for the member of such bands including Mermonte and Bumpkin Island.
Created to allow a younger audience to appreciate the cinematic and musical arts, the Artspace ensures children are catered for with front row mats reserved especially for them to enjoy the cine-concert. Even the format of the performance is designed for short attention spans. Four short films between five and eight minutes in length, bonded by the theme of light, are accompanied by the stunning music and vocals of James.
Film one, the CGI animated Lunette (2016) directed by Phoebe Warries, follows a wolf on an imperative mission. Film two, the pixilation stop motion Luminaris (2011) directed by Juan Pablo Zaramella, focuses on a man in a light bulb factory longing for more in his life. Film three, the animated Le trop petit prince (2003) directed by Zoya Trofimova and Iouri Tcherenkov, concentrates on the perilous adventures of a pipsqueak prince with an obsessive-compulsive desire to clean the sun. Film four, my personal favourite, the animated Tôt ou tard (2008) directed by Jadwiga Kowalska, depicts the unlikely friendship between a squirrel and bat thanks to an awry acorn.
Without the live accompaniment, these films would be wonderful to watch however what makes Lumières! unique is James. Despite a minor case of nerves which are combatted by an endearing admission of such, James commands the room. Surrounded by a keyboard, computer, loop recorder, melodica, hang drum and a gasong or tongue drum paired with “magic drumsticks” that glowed, plus two large vintage light bulbs in keeping with the theme she produces an original soundtrack inspired by the sounds of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Sufjan Stevens. The indie-folk/ pop sound is soothing, captivating and ethereal complementing the vision flawlessly.
For the final 20 minutes, James takes the opportunity to verse the audience on her instruments which is appreciated by all, especially this reviewer who can now confidently name the instruments in question for this review instead of panicking like I did when I first saw them. The audience is then able to look at them closely and converse with James which adds to the delight of the children in the audience in particular.
At the conclusion of the fifty minute performance, my six-year-old daughter turns around with a massive smile on her face, gives me two thumbs up proclaiming, “I loved it, Mum”. She isn’t alone in her critique.
Review by Anita Kertes