The Melbourne Festival is full of creative, emotional, and intellectually stimulating art. The Festival is a treat for the senses and the Australian exclusive of the Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir is yet another reason for Melburnians to feel special.
Stephin Merritt is an American singer, writer, and producer of The Magnetic Fields. He is also a brilliant storyteller of human experiences. I was first introduced to The Magnetic Fields by a boyfriend that meticulously recorded songs onto mixed tapes, many of which were affectionately chosen from the album 69 Love Songs. Since that time, a number of The Magnetic Fields’ songs have served as musical touchpoints for love and loss in my life. Now the tables have turned, as Merritt uses 50 Song Memoir to chronicle his own life, with a song representing each of his fifty years on earth.
The Arts Centre venue suited the theatrical story-telling style. On stage Merritt sat amongst a collection of items from his own home inside a human sized dollhouse bedroom. Six band members and scores of instruments surrounded the set. Overhead, projections in a picture frame complimented the musical narrative. Director José Zayas described it as “a speech balloon in a comic.”
In typical Magnetic Fields fashion, the music contained humour and heart. In between the songs, Merritt provided anecdotes about his nomadic childhood. (We learn that by age 23 he had lived in 33 different locations.) At one point, we also heard from the band. Due to a technical issue after intermission the musicians shared a few favourite dad jokes, while the crew worked on resolving the problem.
The show ran over two nights, with songs 1-25 on Saturday and songs 26-50 on Sunday. Despite the production chronicling fifty years, it was easy to become engrossed in Merritt’s world and lose track of time.
Jenny is an event adventurer that loves a good story.
The Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir runs as part of the Melbourne Festival, 21-22 October at Arts Centre Melbourne.