Three diferent viewpoints of the same performance of Berlin, 16 December 1995
Spellbound - Vol II Iss IV
© February 1996

Vanessa F.
Aberfoyle Park, SA

The Man

As I flew into Sydney from Adelaide early on Saturday morning, a sense of calmness enveloped me - I looked out the window of the plane and felt as though I were "coming home!" I wondered what Iva was doing in his house somewhere down there.

I went to my hotel, but as my room wasn't ready yet, I caught a taxi to the Darling Harbour shops - what a paradise! Floors of interesting shops full of wonderful things to buy and great outdoor coffee shops with spectacular views of the Harbour. I "shopped 'til I dropped" (and my poor Visa card was pretty exhausted as well!) then went outside to catch a taxi back to my hotel.

I flopped down on the bed in my hotel and reached for the phone. I didn't know anyone in Sydney, but I had written down the names and addresses of all of the Icehouse fans who lived in Sydney, from the Pen Pals Wanted page in Spellbound! I rang Directory Assistance and got the phone numbers of Sarah S. and Susan-Jane H. Unfortunately no one else was listed, so I rang Sarah who greeted me warmly on the phone, but explained that I was ringing on her mobile phone and she was in her car on the freeway, with a police car on her tail! So I rang her back later and asked if she wanted to see Berlin. She had already seen it and would have loved to have come with me, but she had to get up very early for work the next day. So we promised to keep in touch and I rang Susan-Jane. Her father - nice guy! - said that she would be out until later that night, but I could ring back if I wanted to. Unfortunately, Susan-Jane wouldn't have been back in time, and Suzy H., who I have been corresponding with all year, had just got a full-time job - huh! So I went on my own… and wasn't I glad I did…!

The hours passed very quickly and soon it was time to go and see Berlin. I caught a taxi to the Sydney Opera House and after being dropped off near the Drama Theatre, I took a moment to snap some photos of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Okay, so this was a bit "touristy" of me, but the Bridge is rather breathtaking when you come close to it!

I walked into the Drama Theatre and I heard someone talking excitedly about Icehouse and their fan club magazine Spellbound. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Hey, I read Spellbound, too!" He spun around and said, "Hello, Vanessa…?"

Well, to say that I was a bit surprised at this would have been an understatement! He hugged me and introduced himself as Darren and pulled a letter out of his coat pocket from Cheryl & Kristin telling him that I would be at the same performance of Berlin - thanks ladies! He then introduced me to his girlfriend Wendy, and organized the "lady at the door" to take a photo of all of us for Spellbound. Then he wanted to go outside and take some photos of us in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then inside and he talked to one of the ladies minding the coats and bags about how great Icehouse are and how brilliant Berlin is - she had seen it five times already!

It was a very important moment meeting Darren, who is the same age as I am and has been a fan for exactly the same amount of time! Darren has a single-minded devotion to Icehouse and getting everything on camera!

I told Darren and Wendy that I had a "feeling of certainty" that I was going to meet Iva Davies tonight and I had lugged my big handbag full of lipsticks, blusher, combs, and perfume, just so that I'd look good when I met Iva. Darren laughed and said that he'd like to borrow my hairspray after the performance - he would have brought his own, but he didn't know that you could take that much junk on the plane!

As Darren was talking to the Manager, trying to arrange "backstage passes" for us - Darren was going to make my "feeling of certainty" become certain! - Wendy was talking to some rather cute guys, who were standing near us. Hang on… that face looks familiar… it's Paul Wheeler! Wow! His friend Guy was telling us how he'd seen Berlin last night and that he was just going to wait around for Paul to finish his performance and then they were going out. He said that Berlin was absolutely brilliant and he would love to see it again.

I suddenly remembered that I had a spare ticket (because my husband hadn't come with me), so I asked him if he'd like to see it again. Hey, he was cute and I didn't really want to sit by myself. He reached out his hand to take mine and kissing it he exclaimed, "You beautiful woman! I love you! Can I buy you a drink?" Well, they are certainly my three favourite sentences in the whole of the English language! So as the crowd went into the theatre, Guy and I "toasted" our glasses and quickly drank the champagne, as it was only a few minutes before the performance.

As I "floated" down the steps of the theatre to my seat (sculling champagne is not a good idea!), a feeling of excitement and anticipation welled up inside of me. The lights grew dim, as the music sent out waves of melody over the audience. The spotlight shone down on Iva Davies, resplendent in an immaculate cream suit and matching hat. "In Berlin… by the wall…" he sang, and from that moment onwards, he had the audience "in the palm of his hand." Just like a chameleon changes its colours, Iva's songs and voice intonated with every action of the dancers, changing to exemplify the mood of each scene.

The music sounded fantastic! Just watching the brilliant Max Lambert's hands move up and down the piano was breathtaking! I had borrowed some opera glasses from a friend, so that I could "check out" Iva in his full glory - and I swear that he was gazing right into my eyes for the whole of the performance!

Berlin was over all too soon. We walked out of the theatre and saw Wendy waving at us, while Darren turned around and yelled out "Hi," standing amidst the throng of people surrounding the souvenir stand. He emerged triumphant, with arms full of Berlin posters for Iva to sign - wow, what a "groupie!"

I grabbed Guy's hand and called out to Darren, "Can you take a photo of us?" Guy looked pleased and pulled me close to him, kissed me passionately on the neck and said, "This photo will give your husband something to worry about!"

"Let's have some photos in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge at night!" said "photo mad" Darren. "It will look great with all of the lights behind us!" We walked over and stood on some steps, with the Bridge behind us. Darren wrapped his arms around me and gave me one of the most beautiful hugs that I've ever had! It was full of such warmth and "Icehouse love" - we had "bonded!"

Then we met up with Paul Wheeler, David Chapman, and Max Lambert, who was quite pleased and surprised when I asked for his autograph and I bet you can guess what kept them occupied for the next ten minutes! After everything was signed, we all went outside and stood around talking for a while. Darren told me that if we hadn't met at the beginning of the night, he had my seat numbers (thanks again to Spellbound!) and so he would have come over and introduced himself anyway! More photos were taken, laughs shared and then Darren whisked Wendy and me off to the "Green Room," where Iva and the cast were having drinks. Anxiously, we waited down the bottom of the stairs for our "hero" to descend - hey, aren't you meant to be doing things like this when you're 16 and not 26?!?! - and when he finally did I was struck dumb! Fifteen years I've waited for this moment… isn't he gorgeous!... etc., etc. I hope that some of you have felt like this, so you know what I mean.

Iva apologized for keeping us waiting and this made me wonder if Darren had told the security men that he was from Spellbound and needed to take lots of photos for the magazine! Isn't he wonderful - I love the way that this guy's mind works!

Finally, when Iva had finished signing the armload of posters that Darren had put in front of him, it was my turn! I took his hand in mine, kissed it, and looking to those superb blue eyes, said, "My love, thank you for the 15 years of brilliant music that you have given me!" Not bad eh, when you consider that I was "struck dumb" a moment beforehand!

These words were followed immediately by, "Oh, ****! Tami will kill me if I don't get an autograph for her!" Not a good idea, if you want to make a good impression! I'm not usually like that!

Iva laughed and said, "No problem," and taking the programme from my hand, said, "Now, what's your friend's name?" Ooh! I love him! He's so calm and polite! Then he signed my programme and asked, "Where do you want to take the photos of us?" Visions of bedrooms, spas, deserted tropical islands, and such like came into head, but it was agreed that we'd go outside and stand in front of the Berlin poster on the wall of the theatre. I don't know who made this decision, because I was having fun in my "fantasy world" with Iva!

"Okay, okay, now you lot over there, move back a bit please!" I said, swishing my hands back and forth. "Darren, you stand over there and take pictures with your camera and Wendy, you take pictures with my camera!" I heard a voice calling "Vanessa!" from behind me. I turned to see Iva, smiling and standing with his arm outstretched to the side - waiting to put it around me! What a moment! Immediately I was silent - the "Great Man" and summoned me - and I rushed into his arms! I put my arm around him and held very tightly - sorry Iva, but I had waited 15 years for this moment! The photos were taken, although not as many as I would have liked - I told Wendy that I had just put a new roll of 36 shots in my camera! Then Iva said "Goodbye" (or something! I don't know, I was too "blown away" for any of my five senses to function properly!) and KISSED ME ON THE RIGHT CHEEK!!! My brain stopped - I was in a dreamlike trance… The next thing that I can remember is standing in between Wendy and Darren, saying, "Catch me, my legs have turned to jelly!" Iva, who was walking away with some of his friends, turned around to see this and laughed!

"Do you think that he liked me?" I asked, anxiously. "Well, he was certainly amused by you!" laughed Darren. When my legs had steadied, and my eyesight had readjusted - the flash on Darren's camera is not normal! - we walked around the Circular Quay on the shores of the Sydney Harbour, and found a lovely outdoor café, where we ordered some food. We were all too excited to eat before the performance! Darren bought cocktails for the two of us to celebrate my "first time" meeting Iva Davies - the best ten minutes of my life! My eternal thanks and gratitude is extended to Darren, for without him (and his friendly "pushiness") I would not have met my darling Iva!

We laughed and drank and shared impressions of Berlin. Wendy was completely blown away by the pure brilliance of Iva's performance of "Complicated Game" and we agreed wholeheartedly with her - ten out of ten for that, Iva! Then it was time to leave, as I had an early flight back to Adelaide in the morning. Darren insisted that we all share a taxi, as he didn't want me catching a taxi by myself at night - how sweet! The taxi pulled up outside of my hotel and we all hugged each other and promised to stay in touch - parting is such sweet sorrow!

The next morning, as I was riding in the taxi to the airport, I started to cry tears of happiness as I remembered the wonderful time that I'd had in Sydney and the fantastic people that I'd met. Wendy and Darren are a beautiful couple and my "instant friends," as is Guy - who owes me a ticket to Berlin when it comes to Adelaide! My advice to anyone travelling by themselves is to take a copy of the latest Spellbound Pen Pals Page and get in contact with as many fans as you can - you're never alone when you're an Icehouse fan!

Being an Icehouse fan means being in a constant state of amazement, because you're never quite sure just what the multi-talented and very creative Iva Davies has in store for you!

Darren M.
Glen Iris, VIC

The Music

At 7:45 the morning after seeing Berlin I was still completely caught up in the music and the dancing. I have never before seen a Sydney Dance Company performance live on stage, and having Icehouse performing as well only heightened my enjoyment.

Coming from a musical angle, the score is superb. I found the orchestral, purely musical component of the songs brilliant. I was able to totally lose myself in watching the dance and being carried through the performance by the music, and I'm sure that I don't have to go into how beautiful Iva's singing was.

"Complicated Game," "Heaven," "Loving The Alien," and "All Tomorrow's Parties" were the four songs which had the most impact on me…

"Complicated Game" because of Iva's great singing (he looked as though he was really enjoying singing this one) accompanying an energetic dance routine; "Heaven" because of an interesting synchronized hand and body movement routine (and the singing); "Loving The Alien" because of the mood it set for that piece of the performance; and the haunting "All Tomorrow's Parties" because of the powerful music accompanying a powerful, sensuous dance routine.

I honestly didn't know where I should be looking half the time, as there was so much going on, even on the perimeter of the lit area of the stage. The set design is amazing, and the choreography is brilliant. (Yes, I'm raving again, but this show is worth raving about.)

One of the many memorable, and also amusing, parts of the ballet was when three male dancers tumbled across the stage and snapped into the shape of a swastika.

The show goes for about an hour and a half, and I was so captivated by what was going on that I wasn't aware of the time. The audience's applause at the end went on for about five extra bows from the performers, and we found this amusing because we wouldn't let them leave the stage.

As soon as it was over I wanted to see it again because I felt that there was so much more to be extracted from the story line that I missed that time around, and also, basically, because it is a fantastic production.

A small advert regarding Berlin claims that it will be coming to Melbourne in March; you can be sure that I'll be buying tickets.

If anybody is even remotely considering seeing this show, I strongly urge you to do so!!

Overall, the performance is an excellent meshing of contemporary dance and popular music, and only Iva and Graeme seem to be able to achieve (to this standard, at any rate).

Congratulations, Iva, for the brilliant score you composed for this show, and I'll also have to add praise for Max Lambert's fantastic piano work and Graeme Murphy's excellent choreography.

Oh, and I'd better not forget Paul Wheeler and David Chapman who were caged up throughout the show, possibly to prevent them from leaping out onto the stage to give a solo performance.

Wendy H.
Melbourne, VIC

The Story

I recently flew to Sydney for the express purpose of seeing the Icehouse/Sydney Dance Company's production of Berlin and after thoroughly enjoying it, I wrote a review for it. Here is my interpretation of the production.

Darkness, expectation building, the crowd murmuring (take no notice of them, they are not here). There is me and the stage and my heart beat impatient. A blinding flash from the stage lights clears the mind clutter and the shadowy forms of the dancers move through the darkness on the stage like shadows of the past, then ebb away to find their positions in the many dark places of the set. The light seeps in and begins to illuminate the wall. The wall looms through from the back of the stage and seems to insinuate itself into every other part of the set. It dominates with its graffitied stick-figures - dark, like evil spirits of the past, like deaths of the fallen, deaths of hopes, but white figures too play across the wall, dreams and hopes not yet crushed.

An impoverished girl huddles against the unfriendly surface of the wall, but casual strokes of white paint on the wall give her the wings of an angel - echoing the angel of the Berlin Wall. At the left of the stage an old woman sits, forever knitting, never changing. She knits on and on throughout the whole performance. Life goes on as time goes on even if change, like an ever-evolving creature, dominates. Incorporated into the hovel-like area are objects like pieces of a tired and worn circus. The circus performers are dressed on the drab side of the carnival colours, tired and weary of the "fun of the fair." Something evil pervades, reminiscent of "Something Wicked This Way Comes." A very clever piece of music meshes circus music with heavy marching-boot tread, gun fire and the sounds of war. A very odd dance indeed is woven. War, the ridiculous circus, is given an interesting twist as dancers line up to be shot down only to spring up again in the manner of tin ducks in a side-show gallery. Later, when the circus members perform, their dance is of a circus of lost joy. The lighting deserves a mention here, as the stage is transformed into a big top with sheets of bright red, white and blue light, and rings of bright stars.

At the centre of the stage is a bar - black, sleek - as sleek as the dancer whose domain it is with an expression of the canary who ate the cat. She seems to be the sexuality of the place, but deadly somehow. Behind the bar is a cage-like cavern where David Chapman, Paul Wheeler, and fellow musicians play in dim red light. The wonderful plaintive, yearning tones of the cello pull at me, in pieces like "Sister Europe, " "Heaven," and "Let There Be Love," the tones mingling perfectly with David's acoustic guitar work and the binding thread of Paul's drumming. A grand piano takes pride of place at the right of the bar.

Iva seems to float in and out, ghost-like hope on top of the Berlin Wall. He appears all in white suit and hat to sing "All The Way." The soft light glows off him, then he recedes into the shadows again. Each appearance is a similar experience. He manages to be a centre focus, without taking you away from the dancers for the story unfolding in front of you. The piano on stage is a wonderful thing. When I could tear myself away from other things going on, I watched the wonderful skill of Max Lambert as his fingers, with a seeming life of their own, ran over the keys.

Some of the dancers in the military uniforms seem an ever-present reminder of the destroyers, the controllers - a suffocating presence. Everything seems to present a people confused and losing hope. A particularly compelling dance piece is of a knot of dancers struggling in a giant circle - a writhing creature of people held fast, but desperately trying to escape their lives.

"Complicated Game" is a highlight for me. Iva's vocal gymnastics thrill me and the slowly building strength of this piece shows the growing frustration of the complicated game that life is. For the song "All Tomorrow's Parties" the dancer is a small girl trying hard to be a child in this atmosphere. Haunting tones of monks chanting perfectly sets Iva's voice to reach into your soul to mourn for lost childhood.

There is a builder of dreams, a writer, who is struggling against oppression. To the right of the stage, beside the warming presence of a fireplace, he builds a card house with the little girl, but military might, like the cruelness of a boy wanting to hurt others, stomps it to the ground. There is a poignant piece near the end when the writer gives up, tearing pages from his book. He finds solace in the arms of the angel, but she is ripped away from him and he must struggle to retain her and his hope.

David Bowie's "Loving The Alien" fits in perfectly. I absolutely loved Iva's version of it and I'm afraid I have fallen in love with the emotion behind Iva's singing again. A couple of unlikely lovers struggling to find hope and each other, dance. Haunting tones as the words tell of "thinking of a different time," "torture comes and torture goes," and "you'll believe you're loving the alien." The piano work is brilliant; lilting, tumbling notes weaving their way around the lovers, the dancers weaving their way through Iva's haunting melody. There's that word again!

"Heaven" really shows up the lost souls of the place, a yearning to make sense of it all, to find a place of belonging. "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens." No, nothing. As a pair dance, the rest of the company group together and remain fixed in position. By using arms, movement and expressions they convey the dance of the victims. The silent scream they use within this piece still echoes in my mind. It was disturbing, like watching tears falling out of a mask.

The wall finally tumbled down in the end in a torrent of bricks and dust crushing some, leaving pieces of life to be picked up and a new future perhaps to be built. The young man who dared to challenge the wall was a victim beneath the rubble, perhaps representing all those who have fallen.

The whole piece was so full of imagery and events that as soon as it was over I wanted to see it again to pick up the pieces that I missed. I hope that I will be able to do so. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Iva on a wonderful collaboration with Graeme Murphy and the Sydney Dance Company. The production was extremely well received and worth the applause (what was it, six or seven curtain calls?). And thank you for your time, Iva, David, and Paul. (Note to Iva: If you were even remotely thinking of releasing the entire soundtrack to Berlin, both myself and Darren would be extremely interested.)