Thursday, 10 May 2012

Blues Bringing in the Sunshine

Imagine the blues: Guys in hats, shirts unbuttoned, sleeves rolled up, clustered around their instruments, which mourn or croon the chords of the soul.  

That is one version of how to do the blues. The Martin Harley Band take this to another extreme. 

Bringing the freshest of air to the blues, in 2005 the Martin Harley Band took their music up to the Himalayas. There they played the Guinness Book of World Records recognised ‘Highest Gig in the World’, 21,000 feet up Kala Patthar, having trekked to their destination, enduring stomach bugs and high altitudes in order to do so.  

In a similar vein in 2010 Harley undertook the ‘Blues Gone Green Tour’, a 27 show, 1,200 mile acoustic tour of the UK by bicycle over thirty one days.  Can you say ‘carbon neutral’? 

The band has created arty film-short videos to accompany the tunes which serve to celebrate the history from which the Martin Harley Band sound has come, demonstrating playfulness and joy in the making the music. 

To me however the most mesmerising video clips are the ones shot live at festivals and gigs. There’s a personalness to Martin and the band, a sense of them not only tuning into each other but also into their location and their audience, be they mountain high or near the almost overflowing banks of the river Ex.

The Barebones tour comes to Exeter Phoenix on Thurs 10 May forming part of the final spurt of opportunities to see the band this tour.  

Original approaches to ‘the how’ of playing aside, the band produce beautiful bluesy tunes, with a mixture of instruments and Martin the bands’ singer/songwriter. 

Despite the dismal May we’re currently experiencing, sultry and southern rootedHoneybee from the Barebones EP will bring the sunshine foot-tapping into the audience whilst jazz-infused Love in the Afternoon will have the rest of your body shortly thrumming and buzzing to the beat. 

Reminiscent of 90s Levellers, Carnival Girl brings a lazy summer bounce, warm as whisky for the ear.  But, if the sunshine still won’t come out then Winter Coatis the perfect antidote tune to snuggle up inside and keep off the rain.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Shaughraun Review - April 2012

To have taken the 19th century melodramatic romantic comedy The Shaughraun by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault from a traditional, usually heavily staged setting and perform it outdoors in Crediton Town Square was a brave feat, requiring vision and verve from Peter Hamilton and Crediton Arts Centre last summer.  The gamble of offering Crediton a piece of non-Shakespearean open-air theatre paid off and the show was so well received the suggestion of an indoor revival this spring was warmly welcomed both by the home crowd and further afield.

Coming into the intimate snug-in-pub welcome of a packed Crediton Arts Centre on Saturday 31st March the audience was greeted by live Irish folk music, lifting and transporting the spirits to another place, Suil-a-Beg, County Sligo on the West of Coast of Ireland, and another time, 1858, when the ownership and autonomy of Ireland was being fought over.

Despite the heady, heavy political backdrop the piece is comedic and the humour was well played out. Tom Blaen performed a chortle-inducing foppish English officer Captain Mollineaux, in love with the witty Irish gentlewoman Claire Ffolliott (Katherine Marsland) but duty bound to follow his orders to capture her brother, escaped convict Robert Ffolliott (Stu Wight), affianced to her friend Arte O’Neal (Petrina Truman). Truman carries the refinement and status of Arte well and remains frostily aloft to the lascivious advances of Cory Kinchela (Pat Laver) to make her his wife and possession having crippled her financially by the poor management of her lands and estates.  Fortunately for Arte and Robert, the loyal and inventive poacher-cum-vagabond ‘shaughran’ Conn O’Kelly (Tim Hole) is determined to foil the double-crossing of Corry and sidekick Harvey Duff (Eddie Holden) to help his friend Robert.

Hole’s portrayal of Conn was the driving force of the performance, his mesmerizingly energetic story telling lighting up the stage, infectiously invigorating his fellow cast members with the optimism to defeat Kinchela and Duff whatever the cost…

Hole was well supported by his love Moya Dolan (Victoria Crossly), gentle and yet full of joyful mischief, the peaceable Father Dolan (Geoff Fox) and emotional Mrs O’Kelly (Hilary Hamilton).  The Chorus did an entertaining job of keeping the audience abreast of where they were as the adventure capered around the landscape of Suil-a-Beg.

The show toured three other venues (Beer, Moretonhampstead and Newton Abbot) before coming home to Crediton Arts Centre.

Where Dance is Going Next

I don’t know the first thing about Contemporary Dance.  I really don’t. To my tiny and untutored world it looks a bit like random movements to often jarring music and feels a lot like someone trying to tell me something important and urgent.  But in Swahili.

At least that was how I felt until I saw EDge, the London Contemporary Dance School’s postgraduate performance company and why I am excited that they are coming back to Exeter Phoenix on Tues 22nd May.  It won’t be the same group as last year and they won’t be doing the same thing, but they will be 12 of the most promising and exceptional dancers on the scene today.

The programme will feature new pieces by Matthias Sperling and James Wilton alongside other works such as Alston Takes Cover which I confess I googled to find out more because even to a novice like me the name Richard Alston is something of a by-word for Really Good Contemporary Dance.  

According to EDge, to celebrate the choreography of Richard Alston, The Place and Dance Umbrella jointly commissioned Tony Adigun and Rachel Lopez de la Nieta to create works inspired by the Alston classic Wildlife. The original piece, considered groundbreaking back in the eighties, has been revitalized with Tony Adigun playing on the foliage of the jungle, creating constellations and floor patterns whilst still using his own specific ‘street’ style of moving.

Alston has been pleased with what the new breed of choreographers and dancers have done to his work.  He enjoyed the sense that Rachel Lopez used it to reinvent David Attenborough – making her piece a ‘very earnest but hilarious documentary’.  That spirit, of not holding particular pieces as sacred, is something that is central to the ethos of Contemporary Dance, which by its very nature needs to be of the moment and yet it has a past; as a genre it is now a pensioner.  What EDge are doing is ensuring that Contemporary Dance continues to question itself as well as the other more standardized, structured dance forms.

I believe it is hard to keep art forms such as dance from seeming elite and I suspect that is an indictment of our culture today, in which we live more in the head than the body, but seeing EDge perform and taking our role as the interpreters of their energy, spirit and skill is one way perhaps to unify mind and motion at least while the dance plays on.

Richard Alston on Wildlife: