Alastair Tomkins: Songs for Sarah Connor

Of all the life lessons we learnt from the 1980s, chief amongst them has to be when somebody shows up your door asking for Sarah Connor, you duck. Now 32 years old, The Terminator launched one of the most iconic roles in cinema history and the franchise continues to this day (Terminator Genisys was released just last year to a mixed reception). Yet now, audiences will find themselves facing a lesser-known side to the futuristic assassin in Songs for Sarah Connor, Alastair Tomkins' mix-tape cabaret.
“I have taken a long bow with the [source]” Tomkins laughs. “I don't want to give too many spoilers, apart from the fact it's a love story, terminated. But originally it came from the juxtaposition of the Terminator in very mundane situations. How does the Terminator answer the door when Mormons come knocking? If pizza arrives but there are anchovies on it, what does the Terminator do? You place a character in an unusual situation, and improvise around it. He is two dimensional, especially in the first movie, but over the course of the series he becomes more and more human. He understands why John Connor cries. One of the key lines in the second movie was Sarah Connor realising that the machine was the best kind of father figure John could ever have. He's not going to get drunk, he'll never yell at him. He'll lay down his life to protect him. All of these things which are of the highest order of fatherhood and paternity were suddenly being endowed on a robot. A lot of that comes directly from the movie. I've tried to use everything that was validated or referenced there.”
Having already garnered rave responses from its Brisbane debut (and a 5-star endorsement from Skynet itself), Songs for Sarah Connor is an unexpected fusion of laughter, loss, love, and the apocalyptic rise of our dread robot overlords. Armed with a guitar gun (gone are the days of thinking of your electric as an axe), it is also a cabaret covering a wide spectrum of musical history.
“What's the inner monologue of the Terminator? He just seems to have this one thing – to terminate Sarah Connor," says Tomkins. "That's the only thing we think is going through his mind. But maybe there's something else. Maybe he's a bit more sensitive than the other terminators? So I get to create these elaborate back stories. I already knew the characters, I know those worlds. He has his gun guitar there, so can sing about all of these deaths, about the trials and tribulations of trying to find her. I wanted songs that supported the narrative, that had a cabaret background as well. Songs that were unexpected. There's a Creed song in there. I mean, I don't even like Creed, but the lyrics supported the narrative. And the juxtaposition of going from something like a Patsy Cline song into a Creed song, from traditional Gershwin songs that are the best part of one hundred years old into something very new with distorted guitar, I really liked that.”
Clocking in at just under an hour, Tomkins has managed to turn the story of a mindless, methodical killer into a two-hander with a remarkable amount of depth. Sure, we're still talking time-travelling Schwarzeneggers – but this time, with a twist.
 “There's also a lot of pathos here as well. Of course, there's plenty of parody and satire in the mix. But there is a bit of a message and it's ultimately about reflecting on the human condition, but that reflection is coming from a robot. He's trying to mirror what already exists.”
By Adam Norris
VENUE: Chapel Off Chapel
DATES: April 12 - April 16
TIMES: 7pm (Saturday 2pm & 7pm)