So far as I can recall, previous governors have arrived without fanfare. Curious about the re-introduction of pomp, an IHOS staffer later told me that it was a request from Government House.

If this is a sign of the times and theatre audiences don’t like it, they can vote with their feet by remaining seated - which would leave the upright Governor looking a little foolish.

All this was a distraction from ‘The Lunch Box,’ a beautiful chamber opera created from a Thai Buddhist fable by composer Thanapoom Sirichang, who is living in Hobart. Sirichang blends traditional Thai music with Western operatic composition, using flute, piccolo, clarinet, cello, violin, keyboard and percussion. The onstage musicians are conducted by Michael Lampard and the result is a beguiling mix that both mirrors and enhances the fateful action.

Designed and directed by Dutch resident Joey Ruigrok van der Werven, ‘The Lunch Box’ is the story of a mother’s devotion to her only son after the death of her husband. The boy grows into a selfish man, to whom the mother is totally submissive, which only feeds his selfishness. It comes to a head over his lunch box and ends in tragedy.

The theme is universal . While set in the Thai rice fields - the set
is simple but evocative -  it could be a contemporary urban story  
about the relationship between two people, mother and son, husband and wife, or any other unequal partnership.

But the hour-long performance belongs to the singers.

Thai baritone Saran Suebsantiwongse’s strong and resonant voice captures the hard-working but self-centred son. Thai-Italian soprano Monique Klongtruadroke is the submissive mother, whose beautiful yet powerful voice encapsulates her grief. (If I have one criticism, it’s that she looks far too young to be his mother).

There were less than sixty people at the first night, which was a shame. Constantine Koukias’ Hobart-based IHOS company is associated with avant-garde experimental music theatre. Some productions have been hard to take, which may be why so few attended. Others, and in particular, his full-length, contemporary opera, “To Traverse Water,’ 
were exceptional.

  ‘The Lunch Box’ is different. Sung in Thai with simple English surtitles, it is easily understood. And it is a creative winner that is set to travel.

The Playhouse, Hobart.
Tonight (March 27th) at 6pm.
Tomorrow (March 28th) at 1pm and 6pm
Information: 0488 367631





Margaretta Pos for Oz baby boomers
“LADIES and gentlemen, please will you ...

I thought it was a request to the audience to turn off mobile phones before the start of IHOS Music Theatre & Opera’s premiere of ‘The Lunch Box,’ on the first night of performances in Tasmania’s Ten Days on the Island festival.

The voice continued:

“Please will you stand for His Excellency the Governor of Tasmania, Mr Peter Underwood and Mrs Underwood.”

Nearly everyone stood, the vice regal party came in and to my astonishment, Advance Australia Fair boomed through the small Playhouse theatre.