Review - The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching, and listening to The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains. A short story written by Mr Neil Gaiman, with painted projections by Mr Eddie Campbell and with a score arranged by and performed live by Sydney string quartet, Fourplay. You could end your reading here and be comforted by the knowledge that the experience was wonderful but please read on while I paint you a more detailed picture.

Photo by Kimberly Butler
The Mona Foma festival launched on Friday the 14th of January in Hobart. A festival of sights, sounds and tastes of the old and new. This is where I had the honour of experiencing The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains.

It was a warm day in Hobart with a strong breeze from the east, just enough to take away the suns bite. My beautiful wife and I entered the wharf, past a sea of families floating on pink beanbags. We took in the last songs performed by Mikelangelo and the Dead Sea Gentlemen, a band that would later perform with Mr Gaiman's bride Amanda Palmer. Much to my surprise the seas parted and made way for us to venture forth, all the way to the barrier. Positioned front and centre, only metres would separate us from Fourplay and Mr Gaiman himself.

I stood, grinning like a Cheshire Cat, flashing my crooked, tea stained food grinders at my highly tolerant beau.

"Excited?" she asked.

"Yup!" I said through a crescent shaped mouth.

"But you've seen this before" she said, and she was right. Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains has only been performed once before, at the Sydney Opera House. This was during the Graphic festival in August 2010 and I was lucky enough to also be at that performance. My prior knowledge of the event did nothing to quell my excitement. In fact, because I already knew how great it was going to be, I was even more excited.

Artist Eddie Campbell walked onto the stage, a tall, handsome man with masculine features and wavy hair of silver. He was greeted by a rousing applause before retorting in his sardonic Scottish Brogue. He first introduced Lara Goodridge, Peter Hollo, Tim Hollo with Shnzo Gregorio rounding out the fourth member of Fourplay. Next came the main event, the introduction of Mr Gaiman himself. The entire crowd went wild, and what a crowd it was. Middle aged women in fold up chairs next to goth/emo teenagers complete with healed cuts on their arms and scowls on their faces. Looking very Dickensian, Mr Gaiman strode on stage in a waistcoat over a collarless button shirt and slacks. Boyishly handsome he approached the microphone before running his hand though his trademark locks which looked like they were drawn with a black felt tip pen.

Mr Campbell went on to regale the crowd with a story about Mr Gaiman and Ms Palmer's recent marriage, a low key affair by all accounts. This story although entertaining was more heartwarming than mere words suggested. I couldn't help but feel that these men were the absolute best of friends, a shared glance and a wry smile was all it took to convey mutual admiration and deep appreciation for the upcoming collaboration.

Alas, my perfect viewing position was not meant to be and the crowd was prompted to sit for the upcoming show. From where I was standing I would have sat directly behind the barricade and lost all sight of the spectacle that I had come to enjoy. If I chose to stay I would have blocked the view of many a person behind me and although this was tempting for a moment, I chose to move back and found a cold concrete patch to call my own.

The room dimmed and Mr Gaiman spoke like a booming, affluent deity. His voice sounded like sophisticated honey, smooth and golden. If I were a woman I would have melted but as I am a masculine man I merely swooned. He began his story of a wee man and a wolf-faced reaver set in long ago Scotland. A story of greed, revenge and murder enunciated in the Queen's tongue and supported by Sydney's finest eclectic string quartet.

Differing from its previous incarnation this performance included a number of new paintings by Mr Campbell. Hauntingly beautiful images of murder and survival accompanied by the hauntingly beautiful voice of Lara Goodridge.

The show was over, all too soon. Even with a cold bum and tingling legs I could have sat through hours more. A raucous applause exploded throughout the pseudo-hangar and everyone rose to their feet, everyone except the middle aged women in fold up chairs. A standing ovation for the creative team that just graced us with the holy trinity: art, music and literature.

Ten minutes later after a flurry of busy worker ants rearranged the stage Ms Amanda Palmer exploded onto the stage and punched us all in the face with a fistful of piano keys. But that's a story for another day.


  1. Great impression of the evening - thanks - I concur, was there through the latter part in order to witness AFP; superb entertainment.

  2. Oh no, I've just witnessed a tweet which seems to have missed the point of the Tassie 'map' song.
    It is ALL about empowerment, about not having to conform, about making young girls think that the images so powerfully thrown at them by mass media about norms, body shape, other people's expectations do not necessarily have to apply. The message is covert, it is the very opposite of the in-your-face (sorry!) presentation of the video. I am surprised you did not get it.


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