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Review: Forgotten film classic comes to life

By Paul Simei-Barton

Luana Anders in the original Dementia 13.
Luana Anders in the original Dementia 13.

Live cinema offers a fascinating deconstruction of the film-maker's art. The usually seamless synthesis of sound and image is disrupted as the film score is performed live, dialogue is spoken into microphones and sound effects are created before your eyes by a foley artist.

The live performances create an ironic distancing, but what is surprising is that even as the elements of film are dissected and laid out like items on an operating table, the illusion reasserts itself and the audience is swept away by the power of the story.

The method also breathes new life into neglected cult classics and the choice of Dementia 13 is a smart move. The 1963 horror flick has the kind of curiosity value that could fuel a bevy of film studies doctorates.

It was Francis Ford Coppola's first mainstream directorial effort, features a wonderfully unhinged performance by Patrick Magee and is a perfect example of Roger Corman's genius in producing bottom-line knock-offs of film masterpieces.

The hastily devised script consciously references the gothic atmosphere and weird Freudian psychology of Hitchcock's Psycho.

The live performance places extraordinary demands on the actors who are strangely disembodied from their on-screen doppelgangers, and the cast skilfully carry off the trick of lip-synching multiple characters.

Fern Sutherland and Charlie McDermott appealingly capture the swirling emotions of a silver-screen romance, while Cameron Rhodes gleefully inhabits Patrick Magee's deranged investigator and Bronwyn Bradley nails the extravagant histrionics of an Irish matriarch.

The centrepiece of the production is a soundtrack composed by Leon Radojkovic and performed by a remarkably versatile seven-piece band.

Eerie string sounds and subtle mood pieces are woven into a driving rhythmical structure that boldly carries the rising suspense and explosive on-screen mayhem.

Theatre review

What: Dementia 13 by Live Live Cinema

Where: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre to October 13

Also: Live Live Cinema's new season also features a reprise of its previous production Carnival of Souls tonight and tomorrow at 6.30pm.

- NZ Herald

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