This storytelling concert is a tribute to the power of music, both for its ability to create new memories and to restore old ones. Writer Max Barton and his sister Addison Axe weave together music, myth and family history, tells us about their 87-year-old grandma Flora, who has Alzheimer’s. Accompanied by five Australian alt-rock musicians, Styx is a moving, creative exploration of memory loss.
Beautifully staged, the band are gathered like the gods. Their stands are dotted with flickering synapses of light and their rousing, soulful music, at once full of life and mourning. Both song and story are blended with the myth of Orpheus, the god of music, and in tracing the history of Barton and Axe’s grandparents, coincidental parallels tie myth to reality.
The structure gets a little lost along the way. Reverb makes some of the lyrics hard to hear, a third mystical storyline is distracting, and a dip into neuroscience is too easily drawn from Wikipedia to match the beauty of the details in the family’s history. It’s their particular story that makes this piece so engaging, and at times it feels as though the current tugs too far away from Flora. But at its best, it soars. A particularly heartbreaking moment comes as Flora talks about her dead husband, who also had the disease, and wishes for the ability to forget her own dementia.
Styx evokes a half-remembered song suddenly falling into a melody, with the people you love buried between the notes. Both intimate and epic, the show may be patchy in places, but so too are most of our memories. It left me full of love and desperate to call my grandma.