Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bashmet & Maisenberg / Lynch / Bacchae / Famished

Stumbling half way down the stairwell of a doubledecker bus as it lurched along Leith Walk, I jarred my back. Waking this morning, the lower area is so inflamed, I can't even put on shoes and socks without whimpering in pain.

Event #32: Yuri Bashmet & Oleg Maisenberg

Bashmet plays Benda

Back to the Queen's Hall for another classical recital. Pianist Maisenberg opened with Brahms' three Op117 Intermezzi, his approach to the piano a complete contrast to Mustonen's "never less than mezzoforte". Caressing the keys, he reminded me a bit of Richard Goode, another pianist known as much for his chamber as his solo perfomances.

Yuri Bashmet, currently the world's most acclaimed violist, joined him for Brahms' Viola Sonata in E-flat, a piece I know better in its form as clarinet sonata. Maisenberg was more to the fore here, yet a sensitive collaborator.

At the conclusion of this half of the program, my back was too to continue sitting in the cramped rows of this venue, so I went back home immediately. The pieces I missed were Britten's Lachrymae and Schostakovich's Sonata Op147.

Pub lunch in Leith.

Event#33: Lynch

Documentary on film-maker David Lynch should have held me spellbound, but walking into the darkened theatre I found myself struggling to stay awake. I wasn't sure whether I was conscious or dreaming some of the dialogue.

Event #34: The Bacchae / Black and White Rainbow

Another go around with Euripedes' The Bacchae, and a return to the Black and White Rainbow company. This highly compressed adaptation by Simon Evans, who also took the role of Pentheus sets the action in 1930s USA, with Dionysus a travelling magician. It's an interesting idea, but I'm very divided on the result. Broadly speaking you have two big things going on in The Bacchae: gods vs humanity, and passion vs reason. The supernatural aspect is completely taken out of this version, so there is no opener from Dionysus, nor the closing grief and shame of Agave. While this still leaves fertile ground, the characters of Dionysus and his mortal cousin Pentheus (now a prince of industry) are presented somewhat at odds with the qualities they represent. Pentheus (Simon Evans) is proud and angry, but all quivers and twitches. Dionysus (Miles Bullock, with Shakespearia clarity) is stern and aloof, commanding only his trio of vaudeville assistants, rather than a pack of warrior women.

After the show spoke to a gentleman who had seen it twice. We were both impressed by the performance, and I commended their Dracula to him, which shares about half the cast with The Bacchae. Both of us wish we knew more about the company, which has almost no web presence and no supporting literature at the events. I did find this record of a version of Twelfth Night with two of the principals. I had a little time to discuss my reservations about the adaptation, but I will have to think upon them so more independently, as I had a call for the house opening of ...

Event #35: Famished

A Victorian horror-comedy musical with zombies is an almost unmissable event at a Fringe festival. By the time I got to see it it had nominated in the categories of "Best New Musical" and "Best Musical Lyrics".

The story opens with 3 explorers somewhere in darkest Borneo in 1857, one bemoaning the lack of any stimulating life over the previous three weeks. Another suggests that "the patisserie we stopped at yesterday was rather charming" to which the first retorts "I wouldn't give one of their florentines to a black!". So we know we're in ludicrously politically-incorrect (if temporally correct) waters.

It's a very amusing show, with an ending that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. My only substantial criticism is that a couple of the male voices were so lacking in power that the lyrics were nearly inaudible. I was only in the third row of a not overly large room. Particular memories were the London streetwalker crying "fresh 'ore, fresh 'ore", the heroine's polite rebuff of her zombie fiance as one of the legion of the undead, and the two evil scientists ("the human race won't enslave itself you know") and their backing chorus of tropical birds.

I hope the production team resists the temptation to turn this show into something bigger (which would ruin the rather excellent conclusion) - it seems perfectly pitched as a sort of "pub musical" at its curren length.

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