harry gregson-williams talk, barbican cinema

Harry Gregson-Williams
Harry Gregson-Williams

Me and my lovely mate were meant to be going to see In The Beginning Was The End at Somerset House last week, but someone forgot to book the tickets!  I have to book to go and see that on my own now, as there only seem to be single tickets left.

Anyway, we already had the evening booked out together, so decided to see what else was on that night.  There was a talk on at the Barbican by a film composer – not the normal kind of thing we would have gone to, but we’ve been going to a lot of silent films over the past couple of years, and so film music has started to have a little more relevance to us.  and we’re both members of the Barbican, so it was just over £8…you can’t go wrong really, can you?

At first, we felt a little fraudulent – Harry Gregson-Williams (who I had never heard of) actually attended the Guildhall School, which is next to the Barbican, and I think the majority of the audience were budding musicians and many hopeful composers.

And us.

On the stage was a beautiful piano, a 16-piece choir, electric violinist Hugh Marsh and a huge amount of ‘mixing kit’.

Any discomfort we felt about being intruders soon disappeared when Harry started speaking.  His passion shone through and he was absolutely fascinating, as well as coing across as a thoroughly likeable chap.

Although he now resides in LA, he is originally from Sussex, and is an ex-choirboy.  He came across as a kind of cross between Hugh Grant and Eddie Izzard, and I don’t quite know what that might conjur up for you – but it was all good, honestly (and it helps that he was rather cute to look at too!) 😉

His scores include the entire Shrek series, the Chroniclaes of Narnia 1 & 2, Bridget Jones Edge of Reason, Arthur Christmas, the Total Recall remake, Cowboys & Aliens, Flushed Away and Gone Baby Gone (which I finally watched last weekend – brilliant film, and have only just seen that he did that score too!)

He gave little demonstrations of how he goes about composing, and played same scenes from the films, playing some of the soundtrack live, explained a lot of the process and relayed a lot of vignettes of his experiences.

I was really moved by his tales of Tony Scott who he seemed to work with a lot, and obviously held in high regard before his sudden suicide last year.

And then he played a scene from a film that I have always cried at, and always been annoyed with myself for crying at – the kidnap scene from Man On Fire, which is inexplicably a firm favourite film of mine.

His explanation of all the layers in the music for that scene that he put in, far from making it seem less impactful had the total opposite effect.  Especially as I had forgotten that the starting music is Debussy’s Clair De Lune which I chose for my uncle’s funeral last year.

So, I sat in a packed theatre, during a fascinating talk, watching a 3 minute clip of a film with tears rolling down my face.

Dead classy!

Anyway, it was a brilliant evening, totally different to anything I have been to recently (or maybe ever) and I will definitely look out for more interesting talks going on, even if I have never heard of the person speaking!

duckie’s lullaby – pit theatre, barbican

The Lullaby cast

This year, my mate wanted to do something a bit different for his birthday.  This is how last week I ended up sharing a double bed in a theatre overnight with a man who wasn’t The Man, and wondering whether someone had perhaps slipped an E into my mint tea before bed.

I had only ever heard of Duckie in connection with gay nights at the Vauxhall Tavern, so I really wasn’t sure how likely they would be to be able to send me asleep.

And that is the whole idea of ‘Lullaby’ (the clue is in the name).  You pays your money and you decide whether you (and your companions) would like a single, double or even triple bed.  On arrival at Level -2 (about 10pm-ish), you are met with muted lighting and big squidgy sofas (that aren’t usually there).  You sign in and are assigned a bed number.

The Pit Theatre foyer

Pyjamas and slipper-clad attendants show you up to a communal (but not too open-plan) changing room where you brush your teeth, take out your contacts, put your pyjamas on and don your slippers before being shown back down and having any belongings safely locked away for the night.  There was one gay couple there who were wearing matching PJs and had even brought their teddies along with them!

There is hot chocolate or tea (mint, green or camomile only) on offer, before you are ushered in to the Pit Theatre, which has been transformed into a circular stage surrounded by 20+ beds.  You find your own (we had my lucky number – 13) and jump into the lovely crisp clean bedding (provided by Toast).

Once everyone is settled, the show begins.  But this is a show with a difference, it has been created to relax and send you off into a peaceful slumber.  There were som rather bizarre looking animals, some songs, some stories (one about a man who had an imaginary family which I would love to know the end of), a magic show, light shows and dancing octopuses (octopi?).

Just a little bit of a trip!

At one stage, I turned to my mate and said “This must be what it’s like for a baby ALL the time!”.  It felt truly freaky in some parts.  however, it must have done the trick as I usually don’t go to sleep until at least midnight, but just after the interval (for any of those who needed a final wee or fag) I put on my complimentary eye-mask (great idea) and stuck in my complimentary earplugs and apparently drifted off (as I didn’t hear the end of the imaginary family story!)

I felt slightly self-conscious to start with as I do sleep hugging the duvet generally with my bum hanging out the bed!

I think I woke up at my natural waking time (about 6.50am) and of course had no idea what the time was.  I had woken a couple of times during the night, but that is actually less than I usually do, and I went straight back to sleep which is very unusual for me!

At 7.30, we were treated to the ‘Dawn Chorus’ which I thought was a birdsong soundtrack – until I actually sat up and saw that they had put a big coop with lots of little fluffy yellow chicks in the middle of the room with a mic over it.  Everyone put their slippers on and went straight over to soak up the cute fluffiness!

Then it was slipper-shuffling off to a buffet-style breakfast of boiled eggs, croissants, cereal, juice, tea, coffee, jam etc where everyone discussed how they’d slept and what bizarre dreams the show had induced.  And all that was left was to get dressed and leave!

It was an extremely unusual experience, but pretty fun – although I am glad I didn’t do it on my own.

josé gonzález, barbican theatre

José @ Barbican

A couple of months ago, I saw that José González was playing at the Barbican.  I’m a member, so I’m always keeping my eye out for interesting stuff – especially as my mate moved there last summer!

I love José González’ voice, so, I thought I’d check the tickets out and see if my mate fancied going…but when I checked there were like 5 seats left and they were all single seats, so I thought ‘Bugger it!’ and just got a seat for myself (selfish bitch, I know!).

It turned out that my mate had looked too, but they were all sold out by that point, and so he felt hard done by.  And I felt rather guilty.  But oh my god, I am SO glad that I was selfish and did get myself a ticket as it was fantastic!

Usually it’s just him with his guitar, but this tour is with a special arrangement with a 16 piece orchestra – The Gothenburg String Theory (because he’s Swedish….you could tell by the name, couldn’t you?)  His voice is amazing – I’ve always thought that it’s beautiful…really ‘pure’ is the only way I’ve ever been able to describe it.

You might recognise this

There were a couple of points during the concert that I realised I was leaking – I was actually moved to tears by the music!  And I haven’t actually been to a concert where there has been a standing ovation during the concert – but it was the best rendition of Teardrops I have ever heard (and I have seen Massive Attack live – and they were shit).  But this was so gorgeous and haunting that it moved the audience to their feet and a 5 minute applause during the main gig!

Oh yes, and there was an empty seat directly in front of me all the way through – how bloody annoying? 😦

I have been looking for a good video of him with the orchestra, but they’re all done from the live concerts and you really lose the sense of drama when you’re not watching it live.  This one at least has brilliant sound, but is with a reduced orchestra.  I still love it though.

flesh and blood & fish and fowl

Geoff Sobelle & Charlotte Ford bring the outside in!

I’ve seen some weird stuff in my time.  I like weird.  I love surreal (have you met my daughter?).  So, when my mate suggested popping along to see Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl at the Barbican Pit Theatre when we were too late to get tickets to see Anaconda as part of The Bad Film Club, I thought “Hell, why not!?”

Soooo, what can I say about this play?  I was truly lost for words by the end of it.  I really wasn’t sure how to take it, what to make of it all.

Reading the Director’s Notes, it seems that the inspiration for it came when a photographer went to Pripyat in the Ukraine, to take photos of an ex-Soviet ghost town, 20 years after the Chenobyl disaster.  The area had become a post-apocalyptic Eden, with the town looking like it had just been abandoned – dried up coffee cups left on the counters in offices, among open notebooks and over-turned chairs.  and all around, nature was reclaiming the space.  Plants were growing into the buildings, animals were happily wandering around undisturbed and birds were nesting in filing cabinet drawers.

I can see where this influenced the play – the set is a dilapidated convenience store admin office.  There are gaping holes in the ceilings, walls and floors, vines and other plants are stealthily growing during the length of the play, and rather odd stuffed animals pop up periodically when not expected.

It starts when Jerry emerges (from a large wheelie bin!) rather ruffled but dressed in his work clothes, tidies himself up and sits at his desk.  He is eventually joined by Rhonda, his colleague who obviously fancies him, but he finds repulsive.  They are the only people in the whole thing.

The majority of the play is physical comedy with hardly any script.  A lot of it was quite amusing, but there were some very hit and miss parts.  Some of it descended into slapstick, and some of it was just WEIRD!!  Too weird even for me to find accessible.

There was a whole excruciating part where they were simulating sex in the wheelie bin where I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or vomit.

Of course, as you’d expect, it doesn’t end well, and nature is the natural victor!

This had great reviews from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – but personally, I am still torn.  I wouldn’t tell anyone NOT to go and see it, but I would certainly be advising them that it’s a bit ‘odd’. 🙂

the manganiyar seduction @ barbican

Indian Celebrity Squares, anyone?

For my birthday present, one of my mates asked me if I fancied seeing something at the Barbican (as I love going there).  of course, I jumped at the chance, we decided on a show and for the past few weeks, I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Manganiyar Seduction, which is an Indian music and song troupe.

I always feel so ‘at home’ at Barbican – in fact I had been there  with The Man &  The Girl on Friday night to see Alice in Wonderland (but more on that in another post).  We had something to eat first (spicy lamb meatballs in a thick, tangy tomato sauce with coconut rice and mango chutney – absolutely scrummy just like their food always is!), and a lovely bottle of wine and then skipped down to the theatre where we soaked up the wonderful air of expectation that I love.  There’s nothing like sitting in a theatre as it fills up, the excitement building up steadily.

The set is as in the photo, but the squares all had their curtains pulled across, and they only opened them the first time they played/sung.  There was always this little frisson of excitement that you could pick up across the theatre as you noticed another set of curtains rustlign slightly, and you knew the square was going to open, and what was it going to be in there?  The last square didn’t open until about 15 mins from the end, and when finally all of the lights were on, and the full crescendo hit, it was breath-taking!

They were fantastic – if you can ever get along to see a show, I highly recommend it.  You’ll never see anything else like it.  Although from the moment we first saw the promotional pics, it did put me in mind of something from my childhood… (notice Bob Monkhouse’s wonderful 70’s style!)

barbican screens to close

I have held a Barbican membership for many years now, and have been to see a wide range of different stuff there over that time.  I love the Barbican as they continue to provide non mainstream shows and productions.  My daughter also LOVES it there and is always excited to be making the trip.

I was quite surprised to read via Londonist that they are planning to close Cinemas Two & Three in March.  This seems a little odd as the cinemas always seem to be packed whenever I’ve been – and they are one of the few places in London that show the more unusual and independent films.

I hope that they DO move the screens elsewhere to enable the great selection of films to still be shown – but it will be interesting to see how they use the space in the future.

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