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Posts Tagged ‘Django Reinhardt’

You can always rely on theatre company Little Bulb to give you something different and imaginative every time you see them – from Greek myth meets Django Reinhardt to a tale about whales to a spoof Victorian melodrama, always with music to the fore. My fourth LB show is about AI and the possible consequences, positive and negative.

Like Wail, about whales, it’s part lecture, part play, part concert. Three scientists / philosophers are joined by an animateur to guide you through a piece anchored in research by the people they represent, but you don’t really know that until the end. They present and dramatise a series of possible future scenarios that make you think about what AI might mean. The performance style is their usual combination of quirky, other worldly, cartoonish and the excellent music moves from A Capella to four-piece rock band.

I didn’t engage with it like their other shows, which I think is to do with structure. I struggled to get into it and it never really grabbed me in the same way the previous shows have, but I very much admired the stagecraft, musicianship and visual aesthetic of it. One of the problems Little Bulb have is following up their huge early hit Orpheus, on a much bigger scale in the Grand Hall at BAC. They are right not to try and match it, and Wail and Extravaganza Macabre were charming chamber pieces. This needs a bit more work to give it both more coherence and more engagement, but there’s much to enjoy as work-in-progress from a truly original and creative company.

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For the second time in a matter of weeks, hot on the heels of Paper Cinema’s Odyssey, BAC is hosting something completely original and unique and this time showing off the wonderful Grand Hall in the process. How to describe it is another matter!

The Grand Hall, with its proscenium stage, high ornate ceiling & pipe organ has become a 30’s /40’s Paris music hall where the legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt & chanteuse Yvette Pepin (fictional?) are performing. They ‘step out’ of the concert performance on platforms in front of the stage to perform the story of Orpheus & Eurydice on the stage, playing the lead roles themselves with all other roles played by five members of the band. In effect, there is a musical prologue, interlude and epilogue with the story told in two halves in-between.

The performance style can best be compared with a silent movie – all exaggerated gestures and movement, hammed up mercilessly and a real hoot – with added retro inventiveness. The music, mostly live, is an eclectic selection of all things French including Reinhardt, Saint-Saens, Faure, Debussy & Piaf plus Bach, Monteverdi, Brahms and original compositions! The musicianship is superb – Dominic Conway’s guitar playing in Django’s (necessary) two-fingered fashion, piano, violon, accordion, double bass, flute, clarinet & percussion – and when Charlie Penn takes to the Hall’s organ it takes your breath away, quickly followed by gasps as percussionist Tom Penn proves to be an extraordinary counter-tenor!

It took a short while before my puzzlement subsided and I allowed it to cast its spell, but then it never let me go. It’s not often someone who’s been going to the theatre a few times a week for over thirty years can say ‘well, I’ve never seen anything like that before’ but that’s exactly what I did say. Sparkling originality, consummate musicianship and great fun. Absolutely not to be missed – and Little Bulb yet another company to follow.

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