You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Pacifists’ tag.

Peaceful

Private Peaceful is another adaptation of a novel by the brilliant children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo (of War Horse fame).

Similarly to how War Horse relates sophisticated ideas about war to young audiences by focusing on the relationship between soldiers and animals, Private Peaceful focuses on the childhood recollections of a sixteen-year old boy who lied about his age to be able to fight alongside his brother in the First World War.

Finn Hanlon gave an amazing performance as Tommo Peaceful, controlling the pace of the piece while not just developing Tommo’s character but also bringing a great deal of life to the characters within his recollections.  This is no small achievement – the play is a 60 minute reflective monologue performed on a stage empty of all but a dilapidated folding bed.

The strength of the play is in how  beautifully it captures how Tommo’s favourite memories are poisoned by his time on the front; his first glimpse of a aeroplane in a country field, running along the mud tracks of a stream with his best friend, and getting piggyback rides from his big brother.

A fantastic piece of children’s theatre.

Private Peaceful
Michael Morpurgo an Simon Reade

Udderbelly, Bristo Square
Until the 31st of August

Morgurgo is also going to be speaking at three events the Edinburgh Book Festival: some tickets still available.

Advertisements

Orange

On Monday night I was lucky enough to see Patrick Wolf’s London show at the Electric Ballroom in Camden.  Most of the songs he played were from his new album The Bachelor, but he did play a few songs from his last album The Magic Position; the title track and ‘Accident and Emergency’.

Wolf and crowd

I’m a big fan of Patrick Wolf. He’s one of a few pop/indie musicians around at the moment who write really interesting music

Patrick Wolf and violin

This quite interesting article goes into Wolf’s background in performance art collectives and electronic instrument construction.  In it he is compared to my favourite pop musician David Bowie.

I’m not entirely sure that you can compare the two.  The 1970s had a very different musical landscape, and Bowie’s experimental approach to performance was ground breaking at the time.  But the more I think about it the more the comparison makes sense.

For one thing look at this –

Bowie’s first dabble with electronic music Earthling (released in 1997):
bowie-earthling

And a better view of Wolf’s flag outfit on Monday night:
Union jack

The lyrics for Bowie’s ‘Battle for Britain’:

Don’t be so forlorn, it’s just the payoff
It’s the rain before the storm
Don’t you let my letter get you down
Don’t you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t you

Don’t you let my letter get you down, down, down, down
Don’t you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t you
Don’t you let my letter get you down, down, down, down
Don’t you, don’t you, don’t you, don’t you

Down, down, down, down, down, down
Down, down, down, down, down, down
Down, down, down, down, down, down

And Patrick’s ‘Battle’:

Battle the Patriarch
Battle for equal rights

Battle, battle, battle
Battle back your liberty
Battle the long night
Come on
Battle battle battle
It’s your time

So I suppose even if Wolf isn’t the new Bowie, they certainly both have a penchant for union flag clothing and defiant British electronica.

What is great about Partrick Wolf isn’t really his outlandish outfits or confident stage presence, but his musical talent.  Wolf has the confidence to try different styles of music and write songs about different emotional, political and fictional themes.  Listening to Wolf you can really feel his passion for sound.  And I can never resist a fellow harpist.

Patrick Wolf is touring the US for the rest of June, heading back to the UK for the beginning of festival season.  Highly recommended.

Patrick Wolf

02/05/09
The Electric Ballroom, Camden.

Quick edit to add:

Here is a post from Style Bubble about Wolf’s clothes and costumes.  And here is a more recent post on his Battle costumes, including a very Saint Sebastian-esque speared jacket.

DSC03456.JPG

Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, like Doctor Atomic, examines the personal and political events surrounding the development of the atomic bomb during the second world war.

The play dramatises various possible conversations that could have occurred when Niels Bohr visited Werner Heisenberg in German occupied Copenhagen in 1941.  The structure of the play is not linear – it revises and re-imagines events, attempting to mirror principles of quantum mechanics in dramatic form: complementarity and uncertainty.  Aside from the politics and physics, Frayn’s play is a quite moving exploration of the changing relationship between  mentor and pupil over time.

It is an incredibly interesting piece of drama – the only real downfall being the (perhaps necessary) simplification of the scientific issues.  The way that the physics is discussed is not the way that two of the brightest physicists of the twentieth century would have talked to one another.  It breaks the illusion.  And as with many plays dealing with this time, an irritating female character is used as a device to explain events to the plebs in the audience, and occasionally gasp ‘won’t somebody please think of the children?‘ (in this case, Heisenberg’s wife Margrethe).

This production was directed by Tony Cownie and designed by Neil Murray.  Compared to the average play Copenhagen allows some scope for interpretation – it is written without any stage directions and only requires set peices to describe the Heisenberg’s house and garden.  At the Lyceum the walls, floor and a few vertical poles were covered with oversized handwriting, with a few chairs and piles of paper for props – placing the events clearly in a world of ideas and recolection.   The production was really very good – if you ignored the moment just before the curtain call when a ridiculous projection of the earth spinning suddenly appeared.  I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen.

Copenhagen
By Michael Frayn

Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh
09/05/09

View

I’m a bit late in writing this up, but couldn’t let it go without a post (Yes, I actually like Yoko Ono).

About a week ago I took the train down to Newcastle to see the city and visit the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art to see the Yoko Ono retrospective.

I should start by saying that the Baltic is a fantastic gallery. Converted from a flour mill, there are lots of wide gallery spaces and a fantastic high ceilinged atrium on the top floor.

Before I get to talking about the exhibition, two caveats:

1)  People who think Ono broke up the Beatles generally don’t like her art.  If you are one of these people, I recommend you read my posts on more popular topics.  Like nude opera or Alan Rickman.

2)  Yoko Ono’s aesthetic is a bit twee and occasionally painfully earnest.  I like it.  Some of the artworks seem politically naive in 60s, long haired hippy sense.  But they are from the 60s, so you can take it in the spirit of the decade.

That is why my favourite works were the earlier ones.  The early 60s short poetry pieces like ‘Paintings’, ‘Play it by Trust’ the giant chess set with only white pieces (1966) “Chess set for playing as long as you can remember where all your pieces are”, ‘Cut Piece’ (1965) and  ‘Amaze’ (1971).

‘Cut Piece’ is a performance work filmed originally in 1965 and then again more recently where Ono sits on a stage and invites the audience to cut at her clothes with scissors.  ‘Amaze’ is a clear perspex maze.

The more recent work was generally less interesting, but had some highlights.  ‘Wish Tree’ is a fairly literal interpretation of the Shinto ritual where people tie strips of paper to branches to send prayers and wishes to the Kami within trees.
Here are some I saw visiting Japan a few years ago – in Tokyo:
Outside Tokyo

And in Kyoto:
Fushimi Inari-taisha

I took a sneaky picture of the wish tree in the Baltic exhibition (I’m all for artwork copyright protection, but I think the participation element justifies stealing a picture here):
Wish tree

I took note of some of the more interesting wishes:

“GANSTA [sic] 4 LIFE”

“I want a pony and a stable please”

“I wish I can get a 2nd upper in my law degree”

This one was funny:
Brian's favourite
The text reads: “I wish Patrick-wolf-boy would fall in love with me please x.”

Like Ono’s contribution to the LOVE exhibition I saw last year, the strength of these participatory works is in finding a concept engaging enough to actually get people writing heartfelt, sarcastic and occasionally absurd comments on little tags for the general public to read.  There were two other similar set ups: ‘My Mommy is Beautiful’ (blank canvases for messages of love to mothers) and ‘We are all Water’.  ‘We are all Water’ is a series of glass jars filled with water and  labelled with the names of historical figures (Gertrude Stein sits beside Groucho Marx and 50 cents [sic]) with a final blank jar with cards for visitors to write a name on.

A more interesting recent piece was ‘Helmet’, a development of one of her short poem works ‘A piece of sky’:

Take a piece of sky.
Know that we are
all part of each other.

‘Helmet’ is a small room full of upturned German World War II era helmets suspended from the ceiling, each full of jigsaw puzzle pieces like this:

Sky

Visitors are invited to take a piece of sky.  I like ‘Helmet’ because it was visually striking, and representing war accountability with hundreds of puzzle pieces that individual people hold is neat (I did warn you all it was going to be twee* at the start).

Baltic

*Apologies for the recent overuse of the word ‘twee’ – Unfortunately both a indie pop genre and an appropriate adjective here.

Atomic

I’ve just spent two hours transcribing a fifteen minute segment of Newsnight Review featuring an interview with John Adams and a roundtable discussion with Jeanette Winterson, Tom Service and Paul Morley. Frenzied argument is not easy to decipher at speed.

Doctor Atomic just seems to get people worked up.

Quoth the composer:

“I often say that next to abortion and gun control, there’s no better way to get people shouting at each other than opinions of opera. You know, all you have to do if you want a dose of toxicity is to go on the blogs and read what people’s opinions are of Doctor Atomic.”

I’ll be spewing no toxicity here.  I enjoy Adams’ musical style and I find Doctor Atomic really moving.

The opera is set in Los Alamos, during the Trinity test of the atom bomb in 1945. It particularly focuses on the inner turmoil of Robert Oppenheimer, ‘father of the atomic bomb’. He was a very interesting man. Aside from being a talented physicist he also had a keen interest in poetry and may have once tried to kill one of his tutors at university with a poisoned apple.

From the Newsnight segment I also discovered that my arch nemesis Jeanette Winterson* cried three times in Doctor Atomic.  I did not cry three times.  But I was very moved by Gerald Finley’s stunning aria at the end of the first act ‘Batter my Heart’ (probably the best known piece in the opera) and the last fifteen minutes of the second act where Adams drags out the final countdown to the test explosion.

I was lucky enough to see Doctor Atomic in its first season in San Francisco in 2005.  I believe that the piece has been revised since then, but I didn’t notice any substantial changes.

This was a co-production with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and aside from Gerald Finley (who according to something I read recently has played Oppenheimer in every staging of this opera to date), Meredith Arwady (Pasqualita) and Sasha Cooke (Kitty) are also continuing their roles from the Met.  You can read about how John Adams hid from Ninox behind a hedge at the Met here.

Doctor Atomic
John Adams

London Coliseum
28/02/2009.

*Winterson is not really my arch nemesis, I’m sure her novels are very good. But her quasi political rants about the transformative power of words are a bit earnest. I heckled one once. Very quietly.

While attendance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year fell for the first time in years after a ticketing systems failure, the Edinburgh International Festival broke previous sales records. The most popular part of the international festival was the dance program, particularly Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray (see what I thought of it here) and two shows by the State Ballet of Georgia: Giselle and a Mixed bill of four short dances. According to The Scotsman many of the performances of the Georgian ballet sold well in the lead up as locals decided to attend in support of Georgia with regards to the Russian conflict.

The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in 1947 as a project to showcase Europe’s artistic potential rather than dwell on the destruction wrought by the Second World War. In that light the political ‘borders’ theme of the 2008 festival seems fitting, as does the choice of Michael Tippet’s A Child of Our Time for the official closing concert.

A Child of Our Time combined some of my favourite things in one big Oratorio package; pacifism, allusions to Carl Jung, and beautiful music. The vocal parts don’t exactly tell a story – the piece is more a cry for peace, love and compassion. Tippet asked T.S. Eliot to re-write the libretto, but Eliot refused – concerned he would make it too obviously poetic.

A Child of Our Time reminded me slightly of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but that might just be due to Williams and Tippet being English contemporaries. The piece combines elements of traditional choral music with African-American jazz and spirituals like ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I See’.

Like the festival, A Child of Our Time ends on an optimistic note about the future:

I would know my shadow and my light,
so shall I at last be whole.
Then courage, brother, dare the grave passage.
Here is no final grieving, but an abiding hope.
The moving waters renew the earth. It is spring

love token

A Child of Our Time
Michael Tippet

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus
30/08/08


[Performance to be broadcast on BBC 3 on 29/09/08.]

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Aug    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Pages