The Hanging Of Jean Lee
Jean Lee was the last woman subjected to state-sanctioned murder in Australia. This was in 1951 for her part in brutally killing a bookie, having tried to take sole responsibility in order to save her lover. She was so heavily sedated before the execution that she was hanged sitting in a chair.
This work of music theatre about Lee first aired in The Studio in 2006, Andrée Greenwell having set a libretto devised by Jordi Albiston and Abe Pogos. In reviewing that semi-staged production I noted that despite the intensity of the raw material the results were not as emotionally engaging as might have been expected. This CD version partly addresses that criticism.
Albiston and Pogos opt for a reportage, film-noirish approach to the language, which leaves Greenwell room to provide much of the colour. They also mash up the chronology, so we begin with the frenzied homicide, and then have Lee’s fall-from-grace life-story interspersed through the narrative of her arrest, interrogation, confession, imprisonment and execution. The effect is of her life rushing before her mind’s eye.
The music is rock-based, but expands towards classical on one side and jazz on the other. The cast, led by a compelling performance from Pippa Grandison as Lee, includes Hugo Race, Jeff Duff, Josh Quong Tart and Mark Seymour, accompanied by a fine band. Brave work.