Wagner's AWU Ring Cycle on the Gold Coast - Bill, Paul and their Brunhilde Julia in the quest for the ring of Barcaldine
You can have power, or you can have love – but you can’t have both. If you get the ring, you will have absolute power over all, but in getting the ring you will never love.
That’s the essence of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the quest for the ring and power, the devastation and mayhem that the quest leaves in its wake – and after, the contemplation; why? Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelun) is a series of 4 grand operas that takes place over 4 days. I don’t know that Jupiter’s on the Gold Coast has ever staged Wagner's Ring Cycle but they had most of the ingredients with Bill Ludwig's show over 4 days last week.
Wagner based his story on Norse sagas and Greek tragedy. It’s a story of Gods, heroes, mythical creatures and the struggle for the ring – a ring which grants absolute power to those who wear it.
Power or love? What’s your choice? In The Ring Cycle the audience has 4 days to contemplate the dichotomy.
There was a Wagnerian touch to the AWU’s show on the Gold Coast. Lots of Greek tragedy and some Norse saga. A dwarf with gargoyle features forges the ring of the Nibelun in Wagner’s work. Wotan, the old chief of the gods steals the ring and The Ring Cycle over 4 days follows the power struggles until the Valkyrie Brunhilde takes the ring back to the Rhine maidens.
Like a lot of simple messages, Wagner’s takes a while to sink in. Power or love. Why was there so much effort, so much intrigue, broken hearts, murder and mayhem just to get the ring? Once acquired, what was it all for? Yes the ring brings absolute power - but what to do with the power now?
Over four days last week we saw the unembarrassed open display of the pursuit of power for power's sake. And it’s the Wagnerian choice that is at the heart of Labor’s problems. Its struggles are about acquiring power. Its structures and parades, the oratory and positioning – all about acquiring power and influence and maintaining it and doling it out and calling it in.
Wotan Ludwig is known to have confided in those close to him that “if you’ve got the numbers, you can do whatever you want.” Numbers, that’s the ring.
So on went the show, all about numbers. The lighting, sound-check, Jack Thomson video – and there the delegates; the numbers – the ring - with hands in the air in solidarity with the old chief of the gods.
And Bill could still muster the shearer’s grip to hold aloft the hand of his possession, his very own Brunhilde on the second night. And she gave herself wholly to him for all the tribe to see.
The unproven and omnipresent Paul Howes was ever vigilant, looking, darting, seeking out threats and carousing with the bringers of influence. His interesting face could have been taken from a sketch in Wagner’s character book.
Howes had many of the pivotal arias. Just him, his thoughts, his struggle, his story. The other characters were off to one side and the lights and atmospherics told us he was the hero. And he was there for Bill’s Brunhilde 110%, chivalrously minding her back while the forces who’d do her harm were massing. She was his and he hers in the struggle for the ring. Power.
And that’s Labor. Numbers, deals, stacking, stage-managing – all about the pursuit of power. Why? That's what they've lost - we see them work the numbers, jockey for position and fight and scrape for power. But they've lost touch with why they need power and what to do with it.
I think we’ve seen enough of the Norse saga, Greek tragedy and Wagnerian scale in the past few years right here in Australia while we've watched the daily quest to keep power.
And the AWU very kindly went to the trouble of staging a 4 day event to put hollowness of their quest out for us all to see.