Showing posts with label iabf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label iabf. Show all posts

Monday, 29 July 2019

Review: Mémoires d’un Amnésique (Amusia Productions, GM Fringe)

Saturday 27th July 2019
International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

This year’s Greater Manchester Fringe continues until the end of July, and I’m reviewing a selection of shows (as you probably know) for this blog and for North Manchester FM. The next show I saw was Amusia’s Mémoires d’un Amnésique, which was on at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Saturday 27th July. You can hear my radio interview on Tuesday’s show on North Manchester, but here’s the blog version…


Subtitled ‘A Reflection on the Life and Work of Erik Satie’, Mémoires d’un Amnésique is part piano recital, part film, and part narration taken from Satie’s own writings. I was very much looking forward to this show, as I really love Satie’s piano music, and I was interested to see how this staging would enhance the musical performance. I’d had a bit of a taster of how the staging would work before the festival started, as I interviewed performer Alex Metcalfe for my Hannah’s Bookshelf Greater Manchester Fringe Special at the end of June. As a result of this conversation, I had high expectations for the show.

As the audience enter for the show, pianist Metcalfe is already at the piano (as Satie). Dressed in a formal suit and bowler hat, he plays a short refrain, then walks slowly to a blackboard and chalks a tally mark. Then he silently returns to the piano and begins the refrain again. The piece he’s playing is Satie’s Vexations, which consists of 152 notes played 840 times in succession. When we arrived in the performance space, the tally count was at around 350.

Mémoires d’un Amnésique – which takes its title from a volume of Satie’s own writing – uses the composer’s own words to ‘narrate’ (in an eccentric and occasionally surreal way) his story. Script editor Sarah Miles has carefully selected and arranged a selection of Satie’s words (which are voiced, in French, by Bastien Mouzay), as well as a couple of examples of correspondence and academic reports of Satie’s studentship at the Conservatoire, to create a particular path through the life and work of the reclusive composter.

Satie was an eccentric, an avant-garde artist, and an absinthe-consuming member of Paris’s Chat Noir set. It is fitting that Mémoires d’un Amnésique uses surrealist and fragmentary techniques to illustrate both Satie’s life and his work (and the two are presented as utterly inseparable here). Miles’s script does this through its selection and juxtaposition of material, as does Keith Lovegrove’s film.

Lovegrove’s film (of which Miles’s script is part) offers a montage of black-and-white sequences to accompany and illustrate the music being played on stage. On the surface, there is haphazard randomness to the imagery we’re watching – and certain stereotypically surrealist objects, particularly fish, recur as a nod to the surrealist and Dadaist movements with which Satie was associated. Metcalfe appears as Satie in the film, repeatedly walking along a pebbled beach, bouncing sedately on a trampoline, and dealing with the ubiquitous fish. There is some sense of progression through the imagery, but this is not chronological or linear construction. (But for those who feel the need for a little linearity, a brief timeline of Satie’s life and writing is including in the show’s programme.)

However, for all the ostensibly bizarre and capricious feel to the cinematography and editing, there is a stylish and intelligent construction to Mémoires d’un Amnésique that ultimately offers a fascinating commentary on Satie’s work (and approach to work). It’s not a lecture or an exposition, but rather a direction of our focus to enhance our appreciation of the music.

By framing the show with Vexations – including Metcalfe’s measured and repetitive marking of the tally – Amusia subtly signal a preoccupation with measurement, metrics and time. Repetitions of the piece’s 152 notes recur at points in the performance, serving almost as moments of pause in the ‘narrative’. In a quoted section of Satie’s writing, he comments that a musician’s first task is to acquire a metronome, and, indeed, the device features heavily in some of the filmed sequences. Ideas and images of marking, measuring and repeating offer the artistic link between music, narration and film.


What I really enjoyed, though, was the way this deliberate repetition and measurement isn’t being used to reveal a deep or unconscious meaning, but rather becomes an absurdist meaning in itself. As with the later Theatre of the Absurd movement, Satie’s music (and life) is situated as an exploration of the existentialism of illogicality. This was a bit of a revelation for me… I love Satie’s music, and I also love Theatre of the Absurd – and yet I hadn’t (consciously) realized the connection between the two.

Now, at the heart of Mémoires d’un Amnésique is Metcalfe’s piano recital. Playing a selection of Satie’s music, including his best-known pieces (Gymnopédies 1 and 2, and the Gnossiennes), for just over an hour, on stage and on screen, Metcalfe is Erik Satie.

And this was the only problem I had watching Mémoires d’un Amnésique… I had to stop myself getting lost in Metcalfe’s playing so as not to miss anything of Lovegrove’s film! (I think I’ve made it clear now that I love Satie’s music, but I should also say that I struggle to listen to the melancholic and evocative Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes without them having some serious effect on my imagination – so I really had to concentrate during Mémoires d’un Amnésique so I didn’t miss what was happening around the music, as well as in my head!)

But, that personal challenge aside, I thoroughly enjoyed Mémoires d’un Amnésique and would definitely recommend it. Classy, thoughtful and skilfully absurd, it was an atmospheric and beautifully constructed dip into the Parisian avant-garde. So good, you could almost taste the absinthe.

Mémoires d’un Amnésique was on at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Saturday 27th July, as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe. It will be on at the Edinburgh Fringe on the 22nd and 24th August. To see the full programme of events on this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe, see the festival website.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Review: The Yank is a Manc! My Ancestors and Me (Hopwood DePree, GM Fringe)

Friday 5th July 2019
International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester

This year’s Greater Manchester Fringe runs from 1st-31st July, and I’m reviewing a selection of shows on this year’s programme for this blog and for North Manchester FM. My second show of the festival was on Friday 5th July, when I saw Hopwood DePree perform his one-man comedy storytelling show, The Yank is a Manc!: My Ancestors and Me. I’ll be playing my radio review of the show on Saturday’s Hannah’s Bookshelf. But here’s the blog version…


The Yank is a Manc! is the true story of Hopwood DePree’s relocation from Los Angeles to Middleton, to save the Grade II*-listed Hopwood Hall. I’ve been following the story with interest for a while, and Hopwood was actually the first guest I had on my local history show on North Manchester (A Helping of History), back in November 2017, shortly after the show began. I also caught up with Hopwood again for my Hannah’s Bookshelf Greater Manchester Fringe Special at the end of June. So I’ve heard a bit of the background to the show’s backstory. It’s certainly an unusual tale, but it’s also been a great boost for the historic building, which has been at serious risk for some time.

This Summer, Hopwood is touring a one-man show (part stand-up comedy, part storytelling) about his decision to move to the UK, his experiences at the hall (and in Manchester and Middleton generally), and the challenges faced by what he amiably describes as the ‘home restoration from Hell’. The show opens with a short video montage to fill in the background for the uninitiated, and further pictures appear occasionally to illustrate the story. These are a nice mixture of jokey images and genuine pictures of the hall and its current condition.

The one-hour show is funny, affectionate and occasionally absurd (but always on just the right side of believable). Much of the humour comes from the fish-out-of-water situation of the ‘Yank’ arriving in ‘Manc’. As you might expect, there are plenty of jokes about cultural misunderstandings, on the ‘two countries separated by a common language’ lines. An early bit about trying to buy a sweater sets the tone – minor vocabulary differences tumble into a bigger mix-up, with Hopwood presenting himself as the wide-eyed, baffled stranger in a strange land. The show is less ‘you people are crazy’, than a self-deprecating wander through the little absurdities of Hopwood’s unorthodox relocation.

The Yank is a Manc! is a very funny show – I particularly enjoyed the description of Hopwood’s first Bonfire Night – but it is also suffused with an engaging affection and openness. While Hopwood makes his passion for saving the historic building clear, what really comes through is a fondness for the building’s idiosyncrasies – and the idiosyncrasies of the other people involved in the project, and of Middleton/Manchester/Rochdale as a whole. Frequently laughing at himself – there are a number of jokes about spray tans and teeth whitening – Hopwood leaves the audience with the feeling that, mad as his project is, he wouldn’t actually want to be anywhere else.


Watching the show in Manchester, with an audience including a number of people from Middleton, there was a pleasing familiarity to the story and the humour. A couple of jokes seem to revolve around particularly Manc or Northern expressions and characteristics (and Hopwood’s occasional switches between calling his new home ‘Manchester’ and calling it ‘Rochdale’ will make perfect sense to people from Middleton). However, the show was actually first performed at Brighton Fringe, and it will be going on to Camden and Edinburgh next month. It’d be interesting to know what audiences from slightly further afield make of the story – I suspect the humour will still hit home, as I don’t believe you need to know Midd to enjoy the comedy of the situations described. Still, I think Middletonians (and North Mancs generally) will feel a particular possessiveness.

As well as tales of linguistic confusion, heritage architecture, and local history, The Yank is a Manc! also conjures up some of the slightly larger-than-life characters that have played a part in the story of Hopwood Hall. We get a glimpse of Hopwood’s LA agent Sheila (and her sound-a-like assistant Ken) and her bemusement at her client’s new career direction, as well as small nuggets of motherly advice and wisdom from a parent who believes her son is having a mid-life crisis. And we get to meet Geoff (a local historian) and Bob (the long-time caretaker of the hall), who flit between looking after Hopwood and tormenting him for being a ‘Yank’.

I have enough inside knowledge – like most people involved in local history in the North Manchester area – to know that Geoff and Bob are real people. In fact, I’ve met Geoff, and he is indeed an incredible local historian, and I have no doubt that he did indeed furnish all the in-depth information about the hall that Hopwood references throughout the show. However, it would also be fair to say that the ‘Geoff’ and ‘Bob’ we are treated to on stage are also characters, based on real people but with a pinch of poetic licence for the show. This is done very well, as Hopwood avoids lazy caricature throughout his presentation of the two Middleton men – again, there is a real sense of affection and warmth – and show a good talent for character construction and dialogue, as well as great comic timing.

Overall, The Yank is a Manc! is an uplifting show that is both funny and sweet. It’s a great story, told with humour and charm. I defy anyone not to be rooting for the historic manor house and its unconventional guardian by the end.

The Yank is a Manc! My Ancestors and Me is on at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, on 3rd-6th July, as part of the Greater Manchester Fringe. It also will be on in August at the Camden and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. To see the full programme for this year’s GM Fringe, visit the festival website.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Review: King Lear (alone) (Inamoment Theatre, GM Fringe)

Thursday 19th July 2018
International Anthony Burgess Foundation

Another Greater Manchester Fringe review from me… this time, a one-man show performed at the Anthony Burgess Foundation.


Inamoment Theatre staged a production of Frank Bramwell’s sequel/reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear: King Lear (alone). The piece begins with Lear alone (funnily enough) on the heath, after the events of Shakespeare’s play have ended. The erstwhile king reflects on the things that have led him to this point, variously railing against his perceived persecutors and beseeching comfort from his family and followers. It’s an intense monologue, which moves Lear through heightened emotions of anger, fear and distress, to more reflective moments, tenderness and even acceptance.

That said, King Lear (alone) isn’t a straightforward sequel. This isn’t simply what Lear did or thought after Shakespeare’s play finished. Nor does it move Lear to a different place or introduce new actions or characters. Rather, Bramwell’s script is more of a reimagining of Shakespeare’s play, told entirely through the voice of the protagonist. Other characters are addressed, but do not speak. (There are points at which Lear calls out to Goneril, Regan and others, and appears to hear something in response, but the audience only gleans this through his reaction.) Bramwell weaves lines taken from Shakespeare with his own lines (and, at one point, a bit of a plot twist) to create a version of the narrative presented entirely from the perspective of the unstable – and abandoned – king.

And this really works. Bramwell’s own lines fit seamlessly into the reordered Shakespearian dialogue, but also reveal the presence of other influences. In particular, the fragmented futility of Lear’s desperate ramblings feels almost Beckettian in places, as lines and phrases were repeated ad absurdum. This is heightened by the absence of response from other characters. No matter how much Lear wants the situation to be explained or resolved, no reply is forthcoming.

Of course, a play of this type lives or dies by the standard of the performance. Fortunately, things were in very safe hands here. Bob Young plays Lear excellently, fully embodying Bramwell’s pitiful, yet not quite resigned, king. Young’s Lear begins as a broken and confused man, but over the course of the performance moves back and forth as the quixotic moods of the character demand. Young offers a (slightly unhinged) joviality in his delivery of lines from early in Shakespeare’s play, a deep melancholy in his depiction of Lear’s lonely state, and full-blown Shakespearean wrath in his condemnation of those who have abandoned him – without going over-the-top and losing the audience’s engagement with the character.


For me, this engagement was one of the most surprising things about the production. I will admit to never being a huge King Lear fan (though I’m pretty familiar with the play), due to the distinct lack of sympathy I’ve always had with the central character. In King Lear (alone), however, we are invited ‘in’ and asked to consider things more directly from Lear’s perspective. While my anger and annoyance at Lear hasn’t entirely gone away – Bramwell’s script and Young’s performance don’t entirely dispel the notion that Lear brings much of his suffering on himself – there is way more scope to pity, sympathize and (most surprisingly) forgive Lear for his erratic excesses.

The staging of the play adds to this effect. As expected, King Lear is indeed alone, on a sparse set (no backdrop, save a wonderfully evocative bare tree) and minimal props. While there are no other characters, he is ‘joined’ on stage by two figures. A creepy (and eyeless) jester’s marotte becomes a companion for a time, and Lear addresses this ‘fool’ with Shakespeare’s lines and Bramwell’s interpolations. And from that evocative tree hangs a blonde-haired doll, which (rather effectively, I thought) Lear ignores until around two-thirds of the way through the play, building a dramatic tension in audience member’s familiar with Shakespeare’s play and growing curiosity in those who are not.*

Ultimately, there are a couple of different ways to interpret King Lear (alone). For some people, it will be a reimagining of Shakespeare’s play – i.e. we’re seeing Shakespeare’s play unfold, filtered through the perspective of a single character. For others, it is a straightforward sequel (sidestepping the death of Lear) – the events of Shakespeare’s play have concluded, and Lear is left to reflect on all that has happened in order to decide what the future might hold. But it’s also possible – and very tempting – to see this as an even closer sequel to Shakespeare’s play – Lear has indeed died, and all that we see is a dying man’s dream or a purgatorial vision.

I thoroughly enjoyed King Lear (alone). It’s great play, made even better by Young’s strong work in bringing this version of Lear to life. Like all good literary reimaginings, it has made me reconsider the original and has changed the way I look at King Lear. While the play has now finished it’s GM Fringe run, it is moving to the Edinburgh Fringe in August, and I would highly recommend it.


* I should say, I went to see King Lear (alone) with my other half, who knows nothing about Shakespeare’s play. This gave us the chance to compare our experiences of the play, given the different awareness we had when we came into the performance.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Psychic Spiders! Launch Party

Thursday 29th January, 7-9pm
International Anthony Burgess Foundation
3 Cambridge Street
Manchester
Free event



Come and join us for the launch of Toby Stone's phenomenal new novel, Psychic Spiders!

George is an unusual spider. Born with the ability to control human thoughts, he has a unique insight into the human psyche. And he doesn't like what he sees. It's time to deal with the problem.

George's crusade to save arachnidkind takes him on warped journey through the city, to the one place where he can make his voice heard - the local television station. But George's quest for media domination brings him up against an array of unlikely opponents: Igor, a troubled man long abandoned to a nursing home by his angry daughter; Tobias, a sensitive spider with a fondness for Countdown; Captain Ahab, a man with no past (that he can remember, anyway). And it's only a matter of time before George's activities catch the attention of The Web - a shadowy organisation whose furry legs stretch around the globe.

Will George succeed? Will humanity survive? Will television ever be the same again?

Join us on the 29th to welcome our new arachnid overloads. Readings from the author, free wine reception and giveaways.

For more information, please visit the Hic Dragones website. And check out Toby Stone's debut novel Aimee and the Bear - 'a book as unique and astonishing as it is chilling'.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Hauntings: An Anthology - Launch Party

International Anthony Burgess Foundation
3 Cambridge Street
Manchester M1
United Kingdom

Thursday, 31 July 2014
7-9pm



Come and join us at the launch party for Hauntings: An Anthology, a new collection of short stories from Hic Dragones.

Hauntings: An Anthology - twenty-one new tales of the uncanny

A memory, a spectre, a feeling of regret, a sense of déjà vu, ghosts, machines, something you can’t quite put your finger on, a dark double, the long shadow of a crime, your past, a city’s past, your doppelganger, a place, a song, a half-remembered rhyme, guilt, trauma, doubt, a shape at the corner of your eye, the future, the dead, the undead, the living, someone you used to know, someone you used to be.

We are all haunted.

Join us at the launch party on Thursday July 31st. Readings by: Tracy Fahey, Mark Forshaw, Hannah Kate, Sarah Peploe, James Everington, Michael Hitchins, Daisy Black and Rachel Halsall

Free wine reception, giveaways and launch discount on the book. For more information, please visit the publisher's website.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Impossible Spaces Launch Party

Friday 19 July, 7.00-9.00pm
Free entry

International Anthony Burgess Foundation
3 Cambridge Street
Manchester M1 5BY
United Kingdom

Join us at the launch of Impossible Spaces, a new collection of short stories from Hic Dragones.

Sometimes the rules can change. Sometimes things aren't how they appear. Sometimes you can just slip through the cracks and end up... somewhere else. What else is there? Is there somewhere else, right beside you, if you could only reach out and touch it? Or is it waiting to reach out and touch you?



Don't trust what you see. Don't trust what you hear. Don't trust what you remember. It isn't what you think.

A new collection of twenty-one dark, unsettling and weird short stories that explore the spaces at the edge of possibility. Stories by: Ramsey Campbell, Simon Bestwick, Hannah Kate, Jeanette Greaves, Richard Freeman, Almira Holmes, Arpa Mukhopadhyay, Chris Galvin Nguyen, Christos Callow Jr., Daisy Black, Douglas Thompson, Jessica George, Keris McDonald, Laura Brown, Maree Kimberley, Margret Helgadottir, Nancy Schumann, Rachel Yelding, Steven K. Beattie, Tej Turner and Tracy Fahey.

Free event, with wine reception from 7pm. Readings from Douglas Thompson, Rachel Yelding, Tracy Fahey, Jeanette Greaves, Nancy Schumann, Jessica George and Hannah Kate. Launch party discount on book sales and competition/giveaways.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Coming Soon... Aimee and the Bear by Toby Stone

So, this post is about a book I've recently edited, rather than a book I've written, but I'm so excited about it I thought it deserved a post.



Aimee and the Bear is the absolutely stunning debut novel by Toby Stone, to be published by Hic Dragones in February 2013. It's a dark (sometimes very dark) fantasy story about a troubled young girl who makes a dangerous journey into the world of her imagination. Stuffed to the brim with echoes of Oz, Wonderland and 100 Aker Wood - but with its feet firmly in early twenty-first-century Manchester - Aimee and the Bear is no children's story. It's captivating and unsettling piece of Manc magic realism that'll change the way you look at teddy bears (and Russian dolls) forever.

Aimee and the Bear is being launched on February 7th 2013, at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, with readings and wine reception. It's a free event, and there's more details on the launch party website. If you can make it, it'll be a great night. If you can't make it, I strongly recommend you get hold of a copy of the book as soon as you can!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Returning to Oz: The Afterlife of Dorothy

Thursday 7 February 2013
International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, United Kingdom

Registration is now open: please visit the Hic Dragones website for more information.

Programme

9.30-10.00 Registration

10.00-11.00 Keynote Paper: Geoff Ryman (University of Manchester)
Harrowing the Land of the Dead: Oz, Was and Joseph Campbell

11.00-11.30 Coffee

11.30-1.00 If I Only Had a Heart: Storytelling and Oz
Chair: TBC

Matthew Freeman (University of Nottingham): Across the Rainbow: L. Frank Baum’s Land of Oz as the Historical Origins of Transmedia Storytelling

Hannah Priest (Hic Dragones/University of Manchester): The Once and Future Dorothy: Intertextuality in Tin Man

Alexander Berezkin (Far Eastern Federal University, Vladivostok): Dorothy Gale and her twin Ellie Smith in a magical land of the USSR

Dee Michel (Independent Researcher): Gay Folkloric Beliefs About the MGM Film and Judy Garland

1.00-2.00 Lunch

2.00-3.30 If I Only Had a Brain: Theorizing Oz
Chair: TBC

Johanna Schorn (University of Cologne): “Just you and I / Defying Gravity”: A Queer Reading of Wicked

Ashley Wilson (University of Cambridge): East or West, Home is Best: Using Place/Space Theory to Identify the 1939 Wizard of Oz as the True ‘American Fairy Tale’

Sorcha Ní Fhlainn (Manchester Metropolitan University): The Oz you haven’t see before!’: The Gothic Sublime in Return to Oz (1985)

3.30-4.00 Coffee

4.00-5.30 If I Only Had the Nerve: Merit and Madness
Chair: TBC

Maria Cohut (University of Warwick): The Grotesque and the Sinister in The Wizard of Oz: Perpetuating Christian Models of Merit

Karen Graham (University of Aberdeen): ‘Now what are we going to do about Dorothy?’: The Judgement of Dorothy in Gregory Maguire’s The Wicked Years series

Carys Crossen (University of Manchester): We’re off to See the Psychiatrist: Madness, Feminine Symbols and Female Power in Disney’s Return to Oz

5.30-5.45 Short Break 5.45-6.45 Special Guest (via Skype): Gregory Maguire (tbc)

6.45 Conference Close

For more information about the conference, or to register, visit the Hic Dragones website or email the conference convenors.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

CFP: Fifty Years of A Clockwork Orange

28 June - 1 July 2012
Manchester, United Kingdom

WITTY : FUNNY : SATIRIC : MUSICAL : EXCITING : BIZARRE : POLITICAL : THRILLING : FRIGHTENING : METAPHORICAL : COMIC : SARDONIC : BEETHOVEN

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962), the International Anthony Burgess Foundation is organising a multi-disciplinary conference to examine its profound and enduring impact on literature, film, music, theatre and society.

The conference will assess the history and reception of A Clockwork Orange in all its manifestations. Papers of 20-30 minutes in length are invited on any aspect of A Clockwork Orange and its legacy. Possible topics might include the linguistic and/or musical aspects of Burgess’s novel; invented languages; the film versions directed by Andy Warhol and Stanley Kubrick; the stage adaptations by John Godber, Anthony Burgess and Ron Daniels; translations into other languages and media; the history of book design; the political and Cold War contexts of the book and films; and the continuing influence of Burgess’s text on popular music, fashion, or other aspects of youth culture and counter-culture.

The conference will be supported by, a new Burgess/Kubrick exhibition at the John Rylands Library (in collaboration with the Stanley Kubrick Archive), a film season at the Cornerhouse cinema, new commissions of contemporary classical music, and more.

If you would like to submit a paper, please send an abstract of 200-300 words to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

She-Wolf Fringe Events

In addition to our academic conference programme, we are also running two 'Fringe' events on Wednesday 8th September. These events are open to the public, and booking is not required.

She-Wolf: Writing the Female Monster
Wednesday 8th September, 6-8pm

A creative writing discussion panel and workshop, featuring Manchester's very own Vampire Queen Rosie Lugosi, and Chantal Bourgault du Coudray, screenwriter and author of The Curse of the Werewolf. Writers will be performing and reading their work, and discussing the rewards and challenges of writing the female monster. Other local writers will be in attendance to discuss their work, and the panel will be chaired by Manchester poet Hannah Kate.

Film Screening: Ginger Snaps
Wednesday 8th September, 8.30pm

Following on from the workshop, we will be screening the classic female werewolf flick Ginger Snaps. Come and join us for some lycanthropic fun!

Both events will be held at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Engine House, Chorlton Mill, Cambridge Street, Manchester M1 5BY. Tickets cost £3 per event, or £5 for both (payable on the night). For more information, please email Hannah Kate or call 07968188727.