Saturday, 31 January 2015

Theatre: Little Room Productions presents Arcana II

It's interesting to imagine how a series of opera shorts based on the figures found on tarot cards could play out. This is what made Little Room Productions opera company's Arcana immediately intriguing to me.

A collection of ten short scenes exploring the human psyche which included 'The Devil', 'The Hanged Man' and 'The Sun', Arcana delved into the deepest of human struggles. Specially commissioned pieces of modern opera by young composers articulated complex emotions, from fear and addiction to plain indifference, and were framed by a thought-provoking monologue given in a rather rudimentary performance by Harry Benfield.

Highlights in the series included Chris Pelmore's witty performance in 'Temperance' – "I just don't care" – and William Stevens's dark and broody exploration of all kinds of addiction in 'The Hanged Man.' Often the libretto referenced up to date cultural trends, like the proliferation of digital communication and technology – James Black and Harry Benfield's 'Strength', for example, featured a lone female protagonist (played somewhat unconvincingly by Marienella Phillips) whose experiences closely reflected those of gameAnita Sarkeesian who received death threats and abuse after she called the industry out on sexism.

There were some interesting musical ideas, such Jacob Bright's use of an off-stage chorus to create a sense of space in the score for 'The Devil' – and profound points were touched on, but these were rarely realised convincing in the performances themselves.

If you like this, why not try:

Music: The Madness Game, Bierkeller Theatre
Theatre: London Road, Bristol Old Vic

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Playlist: Laura Doggett

Laura Doggett is having a bit of a moment right now. The voice behind the current Broadchurch trailer, she recently passed the 10,000 Likes hurdle on Facebook and has announced her first ever solo tour, which takes place in venues in Exeter, Bristol and Bath in March.

That's not to say her CV isn't already packed – highlights include supporting John Newman on tour and releasing a track with the endlessly talented producer SOHN.

The track in question is 'Phoenix'. SOHN has her low velvety voice encased in gorgeously stripped back, trippy synths and repetitive piano motifs. The lyrics are simple but poetic, and heard through her voice utterly entrancing.

Baby you’re the fuel / Your iridescent colours change from every view

I also love her single 'Moonshine'. It's not hugely profound music, but her voice is stunning and far more striking than any I have heard from other new artists emerging at the moment.


If you like this, why not try:

The Playlist: SOHN
Ten of the best albums of 2014
Sugar Blind: Marika Hackman

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Film: Whiplash

Whiplash movie

If you see one film this month, make it Whiplash. The story of a first year jazz drummer who's studying at America's best music college (the fictional Shaffer Conservatory) where he is pushed beyond his limits by a fanatical conductor, it is a fantastic representation of the pressure musicians put themselves under to achieve 'perfection', and something beyond that – fame and glory. 

The fundamental question the film asks is: 'can a musician discover their full potential without being pushed to the point of cruelty by a powerful tutor?' – and the answer director Damien Chazelle essentially gives us is 'no.' A car accident and near mental breakdown does not prevent our protagonist, Andrew (Miles Teller), from achieving greatness in a drum solo in the final scene. But Chazelle's answer comes with a stark warning – that a musician pushed too hard can also be discouraged. 

It is perhaps more a study of the power individuals can hold over others, then, than one of how the jazz industry is driven from behind the scenes in reality. As Richard Brody's blog for the New Yorker suggests, a true love of jazz is the one important thing missing from this film about jazz (the plot revolves around an anecdote recalling the moment in jazz history when Count Basie's drummer Jo Jones threw a symbol at saxophonist Charlie Parker for a botched solo).

But the film's brilliance overshadows a notion like this, at least for me. The acting is superb, the atmosphere of some of the rehearsal scenes come as close to life as I have ever seen in a film and the music is infectious.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Hello 2015

It's difficult to begin to say what a fantastic year 2014 was. Five brand new places travelled to – Jersey, Bulgaria, Iceland, Berlin and Oldenburg. One very special person met and Paris revisited on one dreamy weekend away. One digital editor and staff writer job achieved. One coming out article published by The Debrief. Numerous sensational artists experienced live...

Looking at the new 2015 calendar laid out in front of me I can say that I have got some big adventures in the pipeline for this year too – each of which will no doubt be divulged in good time. 

Now I am not one for making resolutions once a year (why not stop doing that annoying thing you do right now, whatever time of year it is?) and if I did, I probably wouldn't tell The Internet. Maybe by this time next year I'll have published a short but controversial novella, or better still, opened a rescue home from stray dogs and cats.

Whatever it is, here I just want to say Happy New Year and don't forget to HAVE FUN.

RP x

If you like this, why not try:

Hello 2014
Hello 2013