Tag Archives: Joanna Hetherington

Mitten wir im Leben sind / Bach6Cellosuiten
★★★★★

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Mitten wir im Leben

Mitten wir im Leben sind / Bach6Cellosuiten

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Reviewed – 24th April 2019

★★★★★

 

“a world of stimulation and inspiration which is enriching to discover”

 

Translating as “In the midst of life…” the ellipsis of the title immediately arouses curiosity. As the antiphon goes on – “Who shall help us in the strife/lest the foe confound us? Thou only, Lord, thou only” – the structure of this uniquely captivating piece takes the shape of ‘life-death-salvation’. Given this narrative contour, we are lead through the music by a choreography embedded in the rhythms and harmonies where, in both cases, the structure is the channel of expression. Bach’s six unaccompanied suites are, at the same time, staple nourishment and soul food for any cellist but seldom are they performed continuously. Jean-Guihen Queyras’ playing is exquisite, flowing with precision and freedom through the moods of the chapters. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker interprets the individual suites and links them together with sensitive articulation. Searching for the roots of Bach’s composition, Queyras points to the hidden bass line which underpins the melody and the musical illusion of harmony conjured up by a single line. This is embodied with simple steps echoing the court dances of the suites, like the running ‘courantes’ and lively ‘gigues’, and the stillness of the ‘sarabandes’.

Framed by Luc Schatlin’s sublimely atmospheric lighting, Queyras changes position on stage to define the tone and humour of the pieces, opening forward in the major keys and turning inwards for the minor ones. The four dancers take one suite each, creating a self-contained ambience within the greater work – the lightness of the first, the melancholy second and a joyous third in which the cello pauses and the dance continues, the music soundlessly present. In the solemn fourth suite he leaves the stage, the bourée is interpreted elegantly in silence and the cello returns for the fifth, the most dramatic, swathed in darkness; the A string is tuned down to G, intensifying the mournful timbre. De Keersmaeker drifts in and out of the dim stage light until the cellist is left alone for the doleful Sarabande. Lights come on abruptly for the exultant sixth suite, written for a five-stringed instrument and therefore with higher, lighter colours. The five dancers come together, bringing a harmonious yet personal energy and style. De Keersmaeker doesn’t dance her own suite but joins the solo dancers briefly as a refraction of their movement. She announces each one by physically portraying the number and, almost as a refrain between them, traces shapes on the floor with coloured tape, uncovering the geometry of the work.

Behind ‘Mitten wir im Leben’ is a world of stimulation and inspiration which is enriching to discover; there is the mathematical framework, numerical patterns, the idea of vertical and horizontal axes coming together and the abstract emotions which emerge. But, alone, the beautiful cello playing and the controlled, entrancing dynamics of the dancers is a rare and moving experience; the afterthoughts make it more compelling.

Reviewed by Joanna Hethertington

Photography by Anne Van Aerschot

 


Mitten wir im Leben sind / Bach6Cellosuiten

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Medusa | ★★★½ | October 2018
The Emperor and the Concubine | ★★★★ | October 2018
Dystopian Dream | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Layla and Majnun | ★★★½ | November 2018
Tom | ★★★★ | November 2018
Swan Lake | ★★★★★ | December 2018
Bon Voyage, Bob | ★★½ | February 2019
The Thread | ★★½ | March 2019

 

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HMS Pinafore
★★★★

King’s Head Theatre

HMS Pinafore

HMS Pinafore

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 16th April 2019

★★★★

 

“a wonderful example of the mastery of Gilbert and Sullivan’s waggish, Victorian wit and beautifully accessible melodies holding up to time”

 

Often disparagingly relegated to second division opera, Gilbert and Sullivan’s works, in collaboration with Richard D’Oyly Carte, consciously moved away from improvised music hall entertainment to develop a niche genre of English light opera using familiar, stock characters and chorus in ‘topsy-turvy’ plots; ‘HMS Pinafore’ is one of their earliest and best-known productions, which pioneered this innovation. Their first international hit, it satirises the unqualified in positions of power and the stigma of social status in relationships. Both the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter and Captain Corcoran have unmerited ranks of authority and when the Captain’s daughter falls in love with a common sailor, attitudes are challenged in true ‘G and S’ style. The Charles Court Opera Company cleverly brings to life the timelessness of these issues by fast-forwarding to the 1950s and adapts the reduced cast by submerging the crew in a submarine.

The vocal individuality of the company paints a colourful picture of the tangled web of privilege and prejudice and each singer brings a facet to the stage – in particular, Joseph Shovelton’s ease and comic timing as Sir Joseph Porter, Hannah Crerar’s (Bobstay) radiant voice and presence, Alys Roberts as Josephine, maintaining sobriety with a moving “The Hours Creep on Apace” and Catrine Kirkman’s quirky Cousin Hebe who, single-handedly, makes up for Sir Joseph’s original gaggle of female relatives. The ensembles are generally well-balanced throughout, though Matthew Kellett as Dick Deadeye is sometimes overpowered in the company songs and Jennie Jacobs’ (Buttercup) projection fluctuates with her change of register.

Transferring HMS Pinafore to the recent past with Rachel Szmukler’s functional, retro set and bright, vintage costumes and incorporating more contemporary choreography (Damian Czarnecki), director John Savounin builds a fittingly up-to-date adaptation. The acting is perfectly attuned to the size of the venue and the variety of moods creates a captivating fluidity, combining with David Eaton’s musical expertise to illustrate an ironically significant point without losing the enjoyable, traditional charm; only, perhaps, without a ship of men, does the corresponding role of Buttercup become somewhat ambiguous within the modern set-up. This is a wonderful example of the mastery of Gilbert and Sullivan’s waggish, Victorian wit and beautifully accessible melodies holding up to time in an amusing and enticing evening. William and Arthur would undoubtedly be tickled pink to see how little life has changed since they wrote Pinafore and particularly the current feelings and poignancy of mocking pride in “He is an Englishman”.

 

Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Robert Workman

 


HMS Pinafore

King’s Head Theatre until 11th May

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Brexit | ★★★★★ | November 2018
Buttons: A Cinderella Story | ★★★★ | November 2018
Momma Golda | ★★★ | November 2018
The Crumple Zone | ★★ | November 2018
Outlying Islands | ★★★★ | January 2019
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019

 

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