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Posts Tagged ‘Little Bulb’

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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Battersea Arts Centre has responded to its fire last year with enterprise and ingenuity, continuing its work and planning its future rather than mourning its loss. The latest in their exciting new adventure is a open-air theatre in a courtyard hardly anyone knew existed. It’s several stories high, all red brick and white ceramic brick with windows on all sides. They’ve added a false floor with trap doors, a metal gallery with standing places and bench seating and more standing places on the ground floor. It’s atmospheric and intimate and I can’t wait to see more here, but for now the equally enterprising and ingenious Little Bulb are inaugurating it with a delightful spoof Victorian melodrama (in what is of course a Victorian building).

Just three actors (Clare Beresford, Dominic Conway and Alexander Scott, who also devised the show) conjure up the story of a plighted bride and her evil abductor. We also meet maid Bertha and a street urchin (obviously) and his dog. The bride’s father is played by a man plucked from the audience (who moved during the interval, foolishly thinking this would thwart a second act reprise) whilst another audience member gets to bring the rat alive. They move through the space, in and out of doors and windows and trapdoors. They even perform in the window behind the ‘stage’. There’s music, of course, with piano, a trio of horns and bells, and some songs. We played along, hissed and booed and it was great fun.

This is the second small scale Little Bulb show since it’s spectacular Orpheus in the now defunct Grand Hall and I’ve loved them both. I can’t wait for more from the company and more in this terrific new space.

 

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Contemporary Music

The Sessions at Abbey Road in the Royal Albert Hall was either going to be a very good or very bad idea. It’s really only a tribute show, but probably the ultimate in tribute shows, recreating 60 songs recorded in the iconic studio in a replica of that studio with a cast of 45 and the most stunning projections, sometimes onto a scrim and sometimes onto gauze screens on all sides. A truly amazing experience.

Show of Hands aren’t a band, well a folk duo, I know well, but I fancied seeing them in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and it was an absolute gem. Unamplified and by candlelight, with really funny (but brief) banter between songs. A delight from start to finish.

Opera

Pia De’ Tolomei is a rare Donizetti given it’s UK premiere (?) by English Touring Opera. I caught it at the Cambridge Arts Theatre while I was working up there. Though I wasn’t mad keen on the production or design, it was musically very good and I did wonder why it isn’t in the repertoire of opera companies.

Dance

It’s hard to imagine two more contrasting dance pieces than the pairing by Pontus Lidberg and Javier de Frutos that make up Ballet Boyz Life at Sadler’s Wells. Both were terrific and the dancing of the ten athletic young men was thrilling. Long may they continue to produce innovative exciting contemporary dance like this.

Film

Eddie the Eagle was another film that was way better than the critics would have you believe, but perhaps that’s because British feel-good movies are my favourite genre. So glad I followed a friend’s recommendation than reviews again.

Other

 I’m not sure how to categorise either Jonny & the Baptists ‘The End is Nigh’ at the Orange Tree Theatre or Little Bulb’s ‘Wail’ at Battersea Arts Centre. The former is part stand-up, part concert and part theatre about climate change – energetic, infectious fun. The latter is part lecture, part concert, part theatre about whales – quirky, eccentric and charming fun!

 

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Little Bulb’s Orpheus at BAC – the most extraordinary cocktail of concert and storytelling

Paper Cinema’s Odyssey at BAC – more storytelling, with music and charming lo-tech projections

Mischief’s The Play That Went Wrong at Trafalgar Studios – more laughs in 60 minutes than any other show – ever

Cush Jumbo’s Josephine & I at the Bush – two biographies intertwined in a virtuoso performance

ONEOFUS’ Beauty & the Beast at the Young Vic – two biographies intertwined with a gothic fairytale

PIT’s The Universal Machine at the New Diorama – a timely play with music about Alan Turing

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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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