Thursday, 25 July 2013

New Movement Collective - NEST

I have been helping to support the New Movement Collective (NMC), run amongst others by my friend Gosia Dzierzorn of the Rambert Dance Company.

NMC's latest piece (NEST) is a dance and immersive multi-media performance being put on at the Welsh Chapel in Shaftesbury Avenue, former site of the Limelight club at which I occasionally passed some time when younger.  So it was with a strange sense of impending nostalgia for racier times that we went to see the show a couple of nights ago.  It's based on the story of the Odyssey, which the children impressively and confidently narrated the bones of to me in the taxi on the way over.

The piece was extraordinarily good, and rather than trying to describe it I will rely on the very praising reviews here:  Guardian  Independent   Standard   BalletBag

My favourite bit of all was the dancer Clemmie Sveass as Penelope (Odysseus's wife) weaving and unweaving the shroud.  (Penelope, whilst being pursued by suitors in Odysseus's absence used the delaying tactic of pretending to weave a burial shroud for his father Laertes, claiming that she would choose a suitor when finished.  But each night she undid part of the weaving).

Another fine element was a dance done by Gosia in front of a mirror - which I think was a metaphor for the Cyclops's eye.    I liked the piece so much I went back alone a couple of days later.

Anyway, altogether I am immensely proud to have been able to support NMC.  It's the second time I have done so, and I am sure not the last.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

In Manchester: 4 – The parties

The parties were all great.  Imagine if  London had decided to have and largely fund a festival and allowed the organisers to put on a show in most of the National Gallery;  have a series of drinks parties with a very loud disco in the House of Commons attended by most of the Cabinet; and to take over the unused bit of Waterloo station as a concert stage set.   That’s the equivalent level of commitment that Manchester makes to the Festival. 

It was a pleasure to see Alan Erasmus again at a lunch party held by Tom Bloxham (property developer, Chancellor of Manchester University, and Chair of the Festival).   Alan was one of the founders of Factory Records, and I think the last time I saw him was at least 20 years ago at the Hacienda. We had a lovely long chat in the searing lunchtime heat, before I was whizzed off to see Robert Wilson’s staging of Daniil Kharms’ “The Old Woman”.  Of all the pieces I saw in Manchester I liked it least, which I think says more about me than the play, as Charlie Asprey who was with me liked it best of all.

Escaping the culture, Charlie and I took a train out from Manchester to
Alderley Edge and walked up a hill to a great pub - the Wizard - for lunch

Somehow also the tireless Alex Poots, festival director, was everywhere. How he manages to organise it all and still be at all the parties is incomprehensible.  Perhaps he doesn't sleep much. 

In Manchester: 3 – Macbeth

When Caroline, the children and I walked in to the deconsecrated St.Peter’s Church the usher pointed out that as we were in the front row we needed to be careful not to lean forwards in case we got hit by a sword.

The production was relentless, visceral, immediate.  We were spattered with mud, water, blood.   Clashing swords created firefly-like sparks landing on our faces.  McDuff’s wife and child were slaughtered a meter in front of my nose.  Shocking, tragic, total theatre.

Kenneth Branagh brought to the role such a psychological profundity and narrative clarity that I would say this could be the defining Macbeth of our generation.  It's odd then to read the reviews; the critics seem divided between the majority who think it outstanding; and one or two who strangely didn't like it at all.

Almost everyone I know intends to go and see it in a cinema when it’s broadcast this weekend.  But what you won't get in the cinema is the peaty, lingering, smell of the Scottish mud.

In Manchester: 2 – The Michaelangelo Sonnets

A Peter Sellars staging of Shostakovich's Suite on Verses of Michaelangelo Buonarroti, Op.145  and Bach's Cantata BWV 56.  Both were sung by the Bass-Baritone Eric Owens, accompanied by the organist Cameron Carpenter.

The older I get the more I get Shostakovich.   His piano sonatas seem like the logical successor to Bach’s fugues, and the eighth string quartet perhaps the pinnacle piece of chamber music of the 20th Century. So I was already in a state of heightened expectation as Eric Owens started singing.  

The odd solitary tear but seldom graces my cheek, perhaps only once every couple of years, and usually at moments of overwhelming beauty. This was one of those. That said, the friend I took didn’t like it at all.  He found it a bit melancholic. However, I am older than him, and I quite like the cathartic effect of a bit of gloom. 

I was very happy subsequently to meet both Peter Sellars and Eric Owens at one of the many, many parties at the festival.   I couldn’t stop myself sort of hugging Eric, and I asked Peter if he was ever going to revive the “Peony Pavillion” – a Tan Dun piece which we had seen at the Barbican 20 years ago – and which has resonated in my head ever since.  He seemed very pleased to be asked, and is indeed just “finishing it off” now. 

In Manchester: 1 – Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis

I’ve just attended 10 shows in Manchester over two weekends of the 2013 Manchester International Festival.  Every single show was amazing in its own way.   I should admit to a slight bias – I chair the commissioning circle for the Festival.  That said, I am incredibly proud of my involvement with this really unique and outstanding event.   I also think I went to 10 post-show parties.  I have decided not to drink for a bit!

Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis

I love Bristol post punk music.  If I ever get on to Desert Island Discs then the Pop Group’s “She is Beyond Good and Evil” would definitely be on my playlist.  Massive Attack, coming out of the same mindset in the eighties, are right up my street too.  

Adam Curtis’s documentaries, most of which I have seen, are a bit less central to my life – while he’s got some great and important ideas his polemic goes over the top a bit, perhaps counterproductively.  

However together, the combination of the band and the documentary made for a new art form.  Peter Saville describes it as “Grown up pop music”.   I’d say it was the best way to see a documentary ever - it’s like the conscious bit of my mind was fully consumed by the bass being cranked up to 11, so the Adam Curtis messages, however far fetched, bypassed my critical faculties and were injected straight into my brain.  A sort of voluntary brain washing.

The band hid behind screens, and played other people’s music.  As an act of supreme professionalism and self-confidence, it left me in awe.   The cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” is still echoing in my head a week later.    Hope they record it sometime.

With P&V before the concert

I have realised too that I have done a lot since my last post - for example going to Tokyo to see a play.  I might have to become a bit chronologically non-linear in my posting.