Whether the setting is school or work, odds are, fitting in hasn’t always been easy for most of us. Perth’s indie-pop choir, Menagerie, offers up a gloriously quirky and life-affirming remedy for the social anxieties of modern life with its Odes to the (In)Significant show, which knocked the socks off jocks and nerds alike this week at FRINGE.
From Ben Fold’s Underground, “I was never cool in school” was the first lyric voiced in this collection of eight songs, setting the scene for show’s main theme. Impressively, each piece performed was arranged by members of the choir; notable given that no prior musical training or even auditions are prerequisites for joining this ‘motley crew’, as cited in the show’s programme.
The songs themselves were delivered with a vast range of emotion matched with a high degree of technical skill with the melancholy bittersweet of Tom Waits’ Green Grass, the deeply moving and emotionally raw Grow Grow Grow (PJ Harvey), to the celebratory joy of The Whitlams’ I Will Not Go Quietly. In all cases, the arrangements were richly layered with, at some points, six to eight unique vocal parts blending seamlessly, beautifully ebbing and flowing led by choir director and ‘zookeeper’, Sal Banyard (plus two guest directors).
Interspersed between songs, members of the 90-strong choir took the stage to relay stories of small personal victories over the norm via spoken word. At times hilarious, other times introspective and poignant, these intimate and very human narrations, along with the actual songs themselves, tell a story of flipping the bird to authorities and defying the status quo.
A look around the venue showed viewers grinning ear to ear, embraced in the glow of the collective spirit of witnessing the choir’s togetherness. Hands down the coolest choir in Perth, Menagerie’s storytelling through spoken word and singing echoes with the sort of spine-tingling resonance that makes its way into the audience’s mind, body and, most importantly, heart.
Odes to the (In)Significant reminds us that, although we may feel small in this big world, coming together as a community can change all of that in a heartbeat. Misfits they might be but, tonight, the performers of Menagerie were triumphant kings and queens of a pocket-sized rebellion.