City of Shadows

City of Shadows

Every now and then a performance comes along that excels on all levels that is match by a story ever so intriguing. City of Shadows – A song cycle of murder, misfortune and forensics is one such performance!

In the late 80’s the Historic Houses Trust, now Sydney Living Museums, rescued a significant collection of forensic crime negatives from a flooded warehouse in Lidcombe and relocated them to the Justice & Police Museum.

Author Peter Doyle spent a number of years sifting through the hundreds of thousands of images in this chaotic and undocumented archive, uncovering the stories which lie behind them, resulting in the exhibition City of Shadows.

Several years ago, performer Rachael Dease came across a book published to accompany the exhibition, inspiring her to compose and subsequently perform City of Shadows – A song cycle of murder, misfortune and forensics

City of Shadows – a song-cycle in ten parts is simply staged with just Dease, her well-rounded string quartet consisting of Hayley-Jane Ayres, Brian Kruger, Tristen Parr and Aaron Wyatt, and a projection screen. The intimacy of the Tower Theatre bathed in dimmed red light sets the mood for the next 50 minutes or so.

The audience are immediately swept away and taken on a journey. The lyrics and music evoke an era of times gone by, equally matched by Dease and her amazing voice.

The simplicity of the staging also allows the images to speak for themselves. Locations are recognisable as the streets of Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Redfern, Paddington, and Chippendale, juxtaposed against an astonishing array of mug shots of men, women and children who found themselves involved as perpetrators, victims or as bystanders.

For me, City of Shadows has been one of 2013’s performance highlights. I hope Melbourne audiences haven’t heard the last of this highly talented West Australian performer.

City of Shadows – A song cycle of murder, misfortune and forensics
Malthouse Tower Theatre – 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Performance: Saturday 21 September 2013 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 5 October 2013
Bookings: (03) 9685 5111 or online at:

For more information, visit: for details.

Review: Rohan Shearn