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The first thing to say is that this was one of the most enjoyable evenings of theatre I’ve had in a long time. The cast of four began out of character, mocking each other and reviews of their previous shows, and then launched into their very special take on the Greek story of Oedipus.
A mix of scripting (by Carl Grose), music (with several live vocal and instrumental sections played live by the cast), physical comedy and circus techniques, the show had a great pace and was genuinely gripping the whole way through.
The design of both set (Michael Vale) and costumes (Lucy Bradridge) was really impressive. A minimalistic-looking set gave a huge range of possibilities, featuring as ladders, stairs, walls, columns and a walkway transcending space and time on occasion. Costumes were also notable, particularly the use of a huge hat to turn the narrator into a Grecian column and a flock of sheep created by a long coat with giant pompoms around the hem. Ribbons and fabrics were also used to great effect to represent blood, in ever more surreal ways as the show went along.
Particular moments of hilarity included Petra Massey ‘misunderstanding’ the Sphinx and appeared on stage completely naked but with a giant cat head, the song ‘Leprosy’s Not Funny’, complete with audience participation in a repeating chorus, and a Morris dancing scene which, despite obviously covering a costume change, was perfectly placed and choreographed.
Each performer took a turn in stepping out of character and addressing the audience in tongue-in-cheek monologues, mostly involving how fat/old/talentless their fellow cast members are and what they plan to do when the tour is over, alongside sharing a host of medical complaints all apparently exacerbated by performing in the show.
Overall this was a wonderful night of theatre. Four incredibly skilled performers had me gripped not only by a story that’s a thousand years old, but also by their creative style and natural creative humour. Catch this if you can – it’s on tour at the moment – and if not I’ll probably see you at their next show!
A company called Zed Events are currently offering you the chance to battle with zombies every weekend in an abandoned shopping centre in Reading. The building is due to be demolished, but this group have created an interactive real-world game in the space before it is destroyed. There are a number of companies around at the moment creating experiences which sit on the borders of theatre, film-reality, gaming and party and this seems to be one of them.
No word on what, if anything, this zombie battle is promoting, but one thing is for sure — people love being scared by zombies.
This struck me as very interesting. Obviously Mashable are a social media news source and, as such, many of their articles are about virals, pop-ups, flashmobs and the like which are almost all to do with marketing and promotion. It seems interesting, though, that it hasn’t occurred to them that this sort of experience can be simply that, an experience.
I work in the business of theatre and experiences so perhaps I’m more familiar with this sort of thing than most people, but even so it feels like a sad sign of our times that a news source’s first question is ‘what is it promoting?’
Photo CC by Rodolpho.reis on Flickr
Sinfonia Cymru, Dora Stoutzker Hall
31 October 2011
A training orchestra of sorts, Sinfonia Cymru bridges the gap between student and professional by providing young players with orchestral performance opportunities alongside high-profile soloists. Young performers tend to have an energy not always present with more seasoned players professional players, and this was certainly noticeable in this performance.
Given the late start time of 8pm, the programme was quite long and a few audience members did slip out before the final piece. Two symphonies and a piano concerto were packed in alongside the shorter Serenade for Strings by Dag Wirén, which rode along with joyful spirit in line with it’s folk-like style and tonality.
The first of the symphonies, Haydn’s No 83, opened enthusiastically and ended with triumphant gusto, though with a slump in energy during the central movements. Llŷr Williams then joined the players to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 27. As usual, he brought a technically brilliant performance, with just the right amount of depth and expression for the work. Williams is a fascinating pianist to watch, as he cares for every phrase and expresses far more widely than just with fingers on the keyboard.
The programme was concluded with another Haydn symphony, No 85 in B flat major, into which the orchestra launched with almost joyous abandon. This was an enjoyable performance right through to the racing finale which, although taken at quite a pace, was as accurate and thrilling as could be demanded.
Overall the playing was excellent, the odd slip in synchronicity and some unloved ends of phrases aside, and all in all a very enjoyable evening. The players are obviously learning the ways of a professional orchestra and this is occasionally apparent in their manner and enthusiasm but they make a really excellent sound together, something that was only enhanced by the acoustics of the wonderful Dora Stoutzker Hall.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter will probably be aware that I got a new iPhone 4S the other week. My Twitter stream was clogged for several days with my complaining at O2 for not offering pre-order, ordering through Vodafone and then fun and games with the parcel tracker service. I eventually caught up with the phone at a Post Office near my flat that I never knew existed.
Leaving for another day the strangeness of living in a world of modern developments bereft of any community other than the one that was there before and doesn’t really like us, here are some things about the new phone.
Firstly, there are slight case modifications from the iPhone 4. Not many but, due to the aerial improvements, the silent switch and volume controls are slightly lower than they were. This meant that the first thing I had to do was attack my case to make it fit properly.
Next, the obvious: Siri. Siri is iOS5’s new voice assistant. I was a complete sceptic about this, fully expecting that it wouldn’t understand a thing I said and I would never use it. Turns out it’s amazing. It can almost always understand what I’m saying, including the names of people (to send them a text, for example) and places. The only problem I have is that its business finder capability only works in the USA. Over there you can say ‘find me a gas station’ and it will. In the UK you say ‘where’s the nearest shopping centre?’ and you get ‘Sorry Jen, I can only look for businesses in the United States, and when you’re using U.S. English.’ Oh, that’s the other thing – it knows my name. I told Siri who I was by choosing myself from the contacts list when prompted. I’m now even using Siri for the occasional bit of dictation. Facebook statuses, emails and the like. Brilliant.
Something I was really excited about testing was iMovie. This has been around on iPhone since the previous iOS but didn’t work on my 3GS so it was pretty much the first thing I downloaded to the new phone. I have to say I’m really impressed. I couldn’t quite see how a high-feature interface could work on such a small display but it’s achieved perfectly. You swipe to scroll through the movie, click to add media, click on each clip, photo or sound clip to edit it (individual interfaces then adapt for this) and you’re done. Give it a name, export to library, done in seconds.
For a bit of a trial run I used some stock and wallpaper images of snowboarders and created a fantasy snowboard holiday video, perhaps the sort of thing I imagine I would make to show my family a slideshow from a particular occasion.
Oh, you want to see it? Ok.