Finish of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire/Dorset, UK — review

Jehnny Beth of Savages at the End of the Road Festival © Richard Gray/EMPICS Entertainment

All the speak was of the climate. We knew that rain would arrive, but when? In the occasion, the precipitation arrived in earnest on Saturday, but it was not enough seriously to dampen spirits at a bijou three-day occasion that has become a single of the jewels in the festival calendar. Ask Finish of the Road regulars why they maintain coming back and you are probably to hear the very same answer: it is all just so effortless. The environment is pretty, also: peacocks roam the grounds, pausing to pose for photographs, and there’s space to pitch your tent with out becoming also intimate with your neighbours’ breathing patterns.

Crucially, End of the Road is also extremely nicely curated. This year’s gave an exceptionally broad sweep of music, with a welcome emphasis on female performers. The opening day, for instance, provided Anna Meredith. Meredith is mostly a classical composer but here she presented a cross­over project with a band that included drums, guitar, tuba, two cellos, and her own keyboards and clarinet. Crescendos, chromatic scales, the repetitive patterns of minimalism: these components coalesced to form some thing complicated, layered and bold, with hints of Meredith’s native Scotland in the chiming guitars and chords. And the sight of this infectiously enthusiastic performer banging on a drum with the energy of a schoolchild was invigorating.

So too — even though in a quite various way — have been Savages, the UK-based band who performed on the major stage in the early evening. The black-clad all-female band roused the crowd with a bracing blast of precision-tooled noise and hollering. Savages are frequently described as “punk” or “post-punk”, but here they showed that they owe a debt to heavy metal also, with their alterations of pace and churning, cathartic riffs. Rabble-rousing French-born singer Jehnny Beth went walkabout on the shoulders of the crowd — obligingly removing her vertiginously higher-heeled footwear beforehand.

Friday’s headliners had been an odd bunch: Animal Collective are the Baltimore electronic experimentalists whose music veers from squelchy avant-gardism to bubbly dance-pop. Right here, on a stage decorated by three grotesque giant sculptural heads and accompanied by a hyperactive frenzy of lights and projections, the shadowy foursome presented a coherent, expertly segued 90 minutes of music the like of which no a single else is at present generating: burbly, elastic, chattery, skittish, danceable, undanceable, listenable, practically unlistenable, and with weirdly overlapping nerdy vocals.

After, for a joyous couple of minutes, the crowd were dancing and singing to “Flori-Dada” largely, this was music for the head as much as the legs. Strange, and memorable.

Swedish band Goat on stage at the End of the Road Festival © Richard Gray/ EMPICS Entertainment

Considerably of my very first afternoon was occupied with attempting — and failing — to get to see Stewart Lee on the comedy stage. The stewards told these waiting in the huge queues that we had no hope of getting in but still we queued — a phenomenon that this caustic comedian would certainly have had something to say about. On the comedy stage on Sunday, though, I saw Josie Long, who delivered a beautifully crafted piece which veered — inevitably, provided Long’s political leanings — towards Brexit. She discovered fertile ground among this predominantly middle-class audience for her despair over the vote, but also posited the importance of hope and reconciliation. Extended is a classy comedian she can “do” the silly voices, she can “do” the gags, but essentially she is a teller of really funny, thoughtful and nicely-crafted stories.

Saturday’s highlight — and maybe of the weekend — was a set from Sam Beam and Jesca Hoop. Beam is the US singer who otherwise goes by the name of Iron and Wine Hoop is the California-born singer and songwriter who recently collaborated with Beam on an album, Adore Letter for Fire. Their duets had been exquisite factors, their voices dovetailing immaculately, their harmonies close and unexpected they sang songs of love while the wind blew a parting in Beam’s beard and parrots flying overhead deposited “gifts” on the audience.

Beam and Hoop sang two startling cover versions: “Islands in the Stream”, in a minor crucial, and Eurythmics’ “Love Is a Stranger”. They have been funny, too. “Sorry about the rain,” said Beam. “It’s your fault for living right here.”

Goat are a Swedish collective who preserve anonymity behind exotic masks and play music that is tribal and hypnotic. Afrobeat, west African highlife and psychedelia combine in an intoxicating brew. The two frontwomen in their robes and masks sang and danced themselves into oblivion, shamanic go-go dancers surrounded by thumpingly very good musicians.

Bat for Lashes at the Finish of the Road Festival © Richard Gray/EMPICS Entertainment

Saturday’s headliner was Bat for Lashes, the singer otherwise recognized as Natasha Khan, performing right here in a wedding dress and bridal veil in maintaining with her recent album The Bride — the sorry tale of a woman who is about to get married when her groom dies in a car crash. A lot of her set was sparse and rather bleak but Khan redressed the balance with a far more cheerful concluding half-hour, which includes a touching cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy”. Her set also featured a heart-warming on-stage marriage proposal from a pal of Khan’s (“I consider we’re alone now,” he mentioned to his partner as thousands cheered she accepted).

On Sunday, the Malian/Algerian Tuareg band Imarhan got the crowd moving with their hypnotic, churning desert grooves, powered by a deliciously dirty guitar sound, circular vocals and insistent rhythms. A a lot appreciated early-afternoon sharpener.

Later the identical day, the Thurston Moore Group showed just what can be achieved with six metal strings and a plank of wood. Assisted by his ensemble, the former Sonic Youth player wrestled all manner of sounds and noises from his guitar, from delicate harmonics to buzzsaw growls. He is a excellent guitarist, but not in the tradition of Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck his skill lies in exploring the textures of the instrument, the way guitars mesh, clash and spiral on tracks such as the beautiful “Aphrodite”. Their set, although, ended abruptly right after 45 minutes. I’d been expecting, and anticipating, far more.

endoftheroadfestival.com

Section: Arts


73rd Venice Film Festival, first week round-up

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land

As the lights went on at this year’s Venice Film Festival they did so by means of a gloom left by the earthquake in Amatrice only a week earlier. The first-night dinner and beach party had been cancelled to honour the victims, and the festival issued a statement of solidarity. Under the circumstances, opening film La La Land had a difficult job to lift the mood but could not have been much better suited: this is a gloriously old-fashioned musical in the vintage MGM mould, full with toe-tapping numbers, handsome stars and a Tinseltown backdrop.

It begins in a targeted traffic jam on a hot sunny day in Los Angeles, with vehicle drivers compelled to spring from their cars to sing and dance atop them in an upbeat inversion of REM’s video to “Everybody Hurts”. Here we meet Seb (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), and they meet every single other. He is a pianist and jazz junkie with his head in the previous she is an aspiring actress prepared for her close-up but stuck serving lattes on the Warner Bros lot. Initial antipathy gives way to giddy abandon the lovebirds court, kiss and sometimes burst into song. Somehow the marriage of 1950s-style musical idiom and modern setting operates and even feels fresh — at 1 point a mobile ringtone ingeniously gives the prelude to the next tune. Gosling turns his charm to max but it’s the suitably flame-haired Stone, Ginger to his Fred, who is the warm heart of this film, and she outshines all about her. She might just maintain shining till Oscar night.

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The genuine surprise, although, is Damien Chazelle. Surely this cannot be the very same writer-director whose debut was the gruelling drumming drama Whiplash? In one particular film it appears he’s gone from Thanatos to Eros. In Whiplash, obsessive ambition became a self-destructive spiral that crescendoed in an actual death drive, right here the dogged pursuit of dreams becomes a life-affirming fairytale. As its title suggests, La La Land is hopelessly and hopefully romantic, and for a even though sugar levels start to run dangerously higher.

But Chazelle, a trained musician himself, knows when to shift to a minor key. Just when the film appears a half-step away from becoming toe-curlingly corny he breaks the spell, introduces doubts and threatens to dash hopes of a happy ending. Nevertheless only 31, he plays the audience like an old pro, and it is not possible to resist this sweeping stirring, lovesong to music and the motion pictures. What far better way to kick off a film festival.

Will this be the year redheads conquer Venice? Nearby girl Amy Adams (born just up the road in Vicenza) followed Emma Stone up the red carpet with not one but two robust turns in competitors films. In the medium-cerebral sci-fi Arrival she plays a linguistics professional named upon when 12 massive black alien monoliths land on Earth.

Adams and somewhat unlikely physicist Jeremy Renner are the boffins sent in to make conversation with the towering squid-like figures who dwell inside and who speak by projecting an inky smoke from their tentacles. The pair embark on a crash course in “septapod”-speak while the military itch to turn the guests into calamari. For when, however, in a big-spending budget contemporary sci-fi, words are permitted to speak louder than actions as director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) emphasises atmosphere and finds thrills in the humanistic rather than the pyrotechnic.

Adams is even much better in Nocturnal Animals, and so is the movie — in reality midway by means of the fest it is the ideal so far. Adapting an Austin Wright novel, style supremo Tom Ford surpasses all expectations set by the style-saturated A Single Man (2009). The new film is not reduce from the same cloth — in fact it takes stylish trappings and strips them bare. Right here Adams plays Susan Morrow, a wealthy art dealer who has it all: chic modernist house, dashing husband, crippling insomnia and creeping despair.

Then arrives the manuscript of a novel written by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), a brutal Funny Games-like tale about a household harassed by thugs that we see played out vividly in Susan’s imagination. Ford cuts amongst the two as the meta-text of a father’s living nightmare begins to seep into Susan’s fragile waking state and a searing intensity requires hold that never ever lets up. It is a masterful piece about cruelty, weakness and the pain we inflict on every single other bolstered by superb performances from Gyllenhaal and Adams. Do not sleep on this 1.

Even in disappointing entries the ladies have shined. Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans finds Sweden’s Alicia Vikander developing as an actor alongside subdued lighthousekeeper Michael Fassbender. Born to pasty Aussies on a windswept coast but oddly wearing a deep tan (call it Scandi bronze), Vikander emotes her heart out as a woman so desperate for motherhood she commits an unforgivable act. It’s the kind of period weepie in which delicate handwritten letters are weighty with significance and winsome girls run breathlessly through garden gates. The difficulty is, the heinous act really is unforgivable and the story is too certainly contrived to be convincing.

America threatened to dominate Europe totally in the Venice Ryder Cup. German stalwart Wim Wenders weighed in with The Lovely Days of Aranjuez, but this turned out to be a turgid affair in which a lot of hot air blows by way of a summer garden overlooking Paris as a man and woman muse poetically on life, love and sex to no apparent end.

Luckily François Ozon came to the rescue with Frantz. Set in Weimar-era Germany, this mostly black-and-white, German-language outing is a mature perform from a director not constantly known for his subtlety. It tells the story of a young French veteran visiting Germany to spend his respects to a fallen soldier and becoming emotionally involved with the man’s parents and fiancée (beautifully played by Paula Beer). Against a background of lingering European resentment that sadly resonates once more these days, Ozon unpeels the layers of a story laced with secrets and lies but leaves 1 crucial question intact, enabling it to grow to be an unspoken subtext that silently but powerfully threads through the film.

Religion looms massive in Venice, although God mainly stays out of it. Out of competition, The Young Pope introduces Jude Law as a prickly American pontiff determined to shake factors up but plagued by individual demons. Paolo Sorrentino, generating his first foray into Television, brings with him the sumptuous visuals, delectable black humour and narrative audacity of his film function. Judged on its first two episodes, The Young Pope is some thing of an unholy mess tonally and Law seems curiously cast but its quite unpredictability could make it compelling and Silvio Orlando (Il Caimano) is magnificent as a scheming cardinal with moles both human and facial.

They’re all saints compared with Guy Pearce’s diabolical preacher in the deeply unpleasant Brimstone. Set in a Dutch Protestant corner of the Old West, it finds him tormenting Dakota Fanning at wonderful length. Martin Koolhoven’s film has handsome cinematography, fine acting and a reverse-chapter structure that suggests depths to come, yet after 150 minutes of torture, kid abuse, incest and self-mutilation it all boils down to a repellent pile of pulp.

Blind Christ is a slow and sombre affair from Chile that follows a effectively-which means young man with a God complicated on a mission to heal an injured buddy. Like its protagonist the film has genuine conviction and it casts an illuminating light on communities left to rot in the country’s northern reaches.

The actual Christ is right here also, generating his Virtual Reality debut in a new section committed to the nascent technology. There is some irony in placing on a headset to enter an immersive planet when you’re in Venice. Take off the headset, step out of the screening area and you find oneself in what often appears like a 3D fantasy landscape, with beauty and architectural wonders whichever way you turn. It’s the Venice Reality experience and it requires some beating.

labiennale.org/en/cinema/

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Section: Arts


Parsifal, Bayreuth Festival — ‘A washout’

Klaus Florian Vogt as Parsifal. Photo: Enrico Nawrath©Enrico Nawrath

Klaus Florian Vogt as Parsifal. Photo: Enrico Nawrath

The barricades began at the bottom of Bayreuth’s iconic Green Hill. Hundreds of uniformed police stood by, some of them giggling nervously the atmosphere was 1 of mild hysteria. Really who they have been attempting to shield from whom, and why, seemed clear to no one.

There was no red carpet at this year’s Bayreuth Festival opening. The official state reception was cancelled. Safety, even for the duration of the rehearsal period, has been so extreme that at one particular point tenor Klaus Florian Vogt was seized by mistake. He was wearing complete military attire and carried no identification can you blame them?

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Because Germany does not have a royal loved ones, it pays disproportionate focus to the petty upheavals of the Wagner clan. The theatrics around this year’s new Parsifal production had been intense. Provocative artist Jonathan Meese was hired to direct the production, and then sacked once again, ostensibly because his idea was as well pricey. The fact that he was also prosecuted (and acquitted) for employing the Nazi salute for the duration of one more artistic efficiency may possibly have been entirely coincidental.

Perform-a-day opera director Uwe Eric Laufenberg, who occurred to have a Parsifal concept in his back pocket, was hired to cease the gap. Then, with much less than a month to go before curtain-up, star conductor Andris Nelsons bailed out. Was it since Bayreuth’s famously undiplomatic music director Christian Thielemann had been sitting in on his rehearsals, telling him how to conduct? In an effusive interview following the occasion, Thielemann insisted that Nelsons could not possibly have objected to his effectively-intended suggestions the two conductors have been “almost friends”, he added.

Mercifully, Wagner veteran Hartmut Haenchen was cost-free, and the production could go ahead. Then came Good, Würzburg, Munich, Reutlingen, Ansbach. Germany was unsettled. Laufenberg’s production was rumoured to be overtly vital of religions, like Islam. On the edge of panic, probably overestimating its own value, Bayreuth girded its loins for disaster.

In the finish, there were no calamities only a series of disappointments. Sixty prime seats stayed vacant as Wagner hopefuls queued for tickets — nearby politicians who could not attend declined to return their unused tickets. A ban on cushions, classic accessories to soften six hours on Bayreuth’s notoriously uncomfortable seats, was issued. Police rifled by means of handbags and patted down dinner jackets, but identified absolutely nothing suspicious.

There was no overt criticism of Islam in Laufenberg’s production. Such as it was, his notion showed a generic religious order (monks’ robes, crucifixes, prayer mats, prayer shawls, chadors) in a war-torn society. A cruel ritual of drinking blood from Amfortas’s wound peters out when Parsifal returns in the third act and everybody casts their devotional accoutrements into Titurel’s coffin. Think about no religion. As a remedy to Wagner’s cryptic “redemption of the redeemer”, this is a feeble work.

For a provincial German property, Laufenberg’s staging would be acceptable. His handicraft is unimpeachable, and there are some fine details, which includes brief but gorgeous video interludes (Gérard Naziri) in the very first and third act. But for Bayreuth, which has small purpose to exist if it is not setting globe standards in Wagner interpretation, it is a washout. Following Christoph Schlingensief’s 2004 voodoo exegesis and Stefan Herheim’s complex hymn to the work’s reception history in 2008, the Parsifal bar in Bayreuth is set high. Laufenberg falls far quick of the mark.

Not so Haenchen, whose conducting is a single of the best issues about the evening it was higher time for his Bayreuth debut. His is a sober, intelligent, meticulously crafted Parsifal, not offered to the ecstatic or transcendent gestures that Nelsons may have brought. With his modest clarity and tender insight, Haenchen tends to make a Parsifal that is totally his personal — no mean achievement beneath the situations. This is a secular humanist take on the piece that actually does have weight.

Also outstanding are Georg Zeppenfeld’s virile, articulate Gurnemanz and Elena Pankratova’s impassioned Kundry. Ryan McKinny’s Amfortas sounds much less wounded than he looks, although Vogt produces his trademark choirboy higher notes in the title part, even if his palette of vocal colours is restricted and his phrasing frequently wooden.

Angela Merkel, who frequently attends Bayreuth openings, stayed away. Sensible lady.

To August 28, bayreuther-festspiele.de

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Section: Arts


Cannes Film Festival evaluation

Adriana Ugarte stars in Pedro Almodóvar’s dazzling ‘Julieta’

What a Cannes Film Festival. It has been an unruly jungle. Unruly and luxuriant. The movies have climbed over each and every other in excellence, every single new a single transcending the last as it reaches towards that gilded guerdon, that light-giving cynosure of legendary tree-forms, the Palme d’Or.

Am I overdoing it? Not truly. Considering that mid-festival, this 69th medley on the Med has got much better and much better. A very good Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper, gave way to a much better Jim Jarmusch, Paterson. A dazzling Pedro Almodóvar, Julieta, yielded ground — in well-known éclat — to an out-of-nowhere Brazilian film, Aquarius, whose screening ended with an ovation soon after beginning with a demo.

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The director and actors, possessing scaled the Palais methods, held out paper indicators every single blazing a slogan. “Coup d’état in Brazil”, “Brazil is no longer a democracy” . . . Flashbulbs blazed. Festival chief Thierry Frémaux bustled un­happily, his keep-politics-off-the-red-carpet policy clearly in peril. The stunt was repeated inside the auditorium. Far more unhappy Frémaux. Meanwhile the audience loved it — controversy! — even if some didn’t fairly know who the polemicists had been supporting or attacking. Anti-Rousseff? Pro-Rousseff?

No a single soon cared. Brazil is a paid-up political disaster zone appropriate now, what ever side you are on, and Aquarius, written and directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho — not a household name, till now — pays mischievous homage to the cancerous growth of social despair and demoralisation.

It’s all about corruption, decay (moral and material) and the final excellent people standing. Veteran star Sônia Braga plays the proud widow refusing to sell her house, the final apartment in an ocean-view block becoming gobbled up for demolition. Her household begs her to decamp. The developers make threats. Noisy parties, verging on orgies, are staged above her ceiling. Then — last act — there’s a lulu (no Brazilian leadership puns intended) of a spend-off, a single of these curtain moments that get audiences
rising to their feet in exulting glee.

It’s very a festival for Latin cinema. Q: Who is the most talented living film-maker by no means to have won the Palme d’Or? A: Pedro Almodóvar. The Spaniard started his profession as a post-Franco prodigy of libertine baroque — camp, cheeky and hyperbolic (Females on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) — and has given that morphed into the most subtly achieved, voluptuously nuanced stylist in Europe, possibly the planet.

Alice Munro’s quick stories, like Almodóvar’s films, limn an daily world of enigmatic motivations, buried passions and transforming epiphanies. Julieta threads three Munro tales collectively close to-invisibly. You can not see the joins in the narrative about a lady (played at various ages by three diverse actresses) hankering for the daughter who has cut off all communication. Julieta’s journey across years is sketched in chapters at as soon as bold, vivid and wonderfully subtle. A fateful train trip a adore affair a family members residence rocked by a sea that is each cradle and grave that doted-on daughter whose sudden apartness comes like a silent bomb.

Individual moments are incandescent, mysterious or headlong with portent. On the red kitchen wall behind a quarrel scene, the huge white clock hands resemble crossed swords. A enjoy scene on a moving train is reflected in a night window so that the coupling’s blurred, febrile grace rhymes visually with the image, still fresh in our minds’ eyes, of a stag bounding magically however ominously via the train-side snow. Almost everything connects every little thing casts a spell. Close to the end the director cranes the camera above a lake-and-mountain landscape, at when to hold its majestic, indifferent beauty and to withhold a dénouement which — he is surely right to feel — have to be left, for its full energy, to be intuited and imagined by us.

Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas’s ‘Personal Shopper’

Individual Shopper is not in Almodóvar’s league, but it’s way above the league of the idiots — a dozen or so — who booed it. Possibly they were Twilight haters. Star Kristen Stewart has a part exploiting her nervy, sleepless eyes and murmurous lilt of voice. This is a ghost story: sort of. Her character is beguiled towards fulfilment or fatality by an unknown texter, probably her dead brother. Is he — let’s hazard a delirium of decoding — her “personal shopper”, a proxy agent of her desires and dreams, just as her own job, or one of them, is to be retail handmaiden to a celebrity French diva?

Perhaps the booers couldn’t stand being teased. This Assayas is the one who first blooded Stewart as his muse in Clouds of Sils Maria . In his new period as a picture-maker he peers tauntingly, at occasions bewitchingly, into the crack in between this world and the subsequent.

The ideal films of Jim Jarmusch look to doze their way into your soul. He’s a Zen charmer. Just when you think his stories are asleep — like Paterson’s slow-pulse tale of a poetry-writing bus driver (Adam Driver) whose verses are for no a single but him, his wife and his earthly sense of soul and self — you realise they’ve crept inside you and curled up for life.

Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani in ‘Paterson’

Somehow he makes prosaic Paterson, New Jersey, seem a location for poetry and revelation. (It was property to Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams.) Somehow also he makes a dog, a mastiff named Marvin, the most memorable deus ex machina in Cannes. He’s currently favourite for the 2016 Palm Dog, annual gong for screen canines.

There have, alas, been other kinds of dog at Cannes. Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is all style and no substance, throwing its chiaroscuro and camera arabesques at a clunky Korean­isation of Sarah Waters’s gothic thriller Fingersmith. Loving, from Jeff Nichols (Mud, Midnight Special ), is a pie-eyed plodder primarily based on a accurate story: that of the Virginia couple whose mixed marriage challenged miscegenation laws in the Kennedy 1960s.

Much better news on the fringe. The funny and enchanting Swiss model-animation film Ma Vie de Courgette, a debut function from Claude Barras, is about the angst and antics of an orphanage boy. It was a hit in the Directors’ Fortnight, which also showed the very first ever film from an Afghan lady director, Wolf and Sheep. Depicting life in and about a remote mountain village, it rates nine for ethnographic appeal, five for dramatic interest. But hooray for the reality of a 20-year-old woman — her age when she started the project — throwing off patriarchal constraints to make a feature film and bring it to Cannes.

With two days left, the Cannes competition powers on. Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, stage-derived yet defiantly cinematic, focuses an expressionistic gaze on a torrid family reunion, starrily played by Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel and Gaspard Ulliel. Based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce it is like a Gallic Extended Day’s Journey Into Evening.

Cristian Mungiu’s Baccalauréat is the third of this Romanian’s quietly coruscating moral tales to bow at Cannes. The final was Beyond the Hills — passions and a Passion in a convent — and before that the Palme d’Or-winning Four Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days. Now it’s the troubling, powerful tale of a tiny-town family venturing into petty corruption when anything must be done, some dodgy favours must be referred to as in, when an eve-of-exam daughter is disadvantaged, to put it mildly, by an attempted rape the day just before.

We reside in a globe where assaults on freedom are multiform and multitudinous where those on individuals are as pernicious as these on groups or nations and exactly where — thank providence for the Cannes Film Festival — the searchlights of art and cinema can shine an insistent, indefatigable light on liberty’s abuses and liberty’s value.

Ends May 22, festival-cannes.fr

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Cheltenham Jazz Festival — evaluation

Christian Scott at the Chelteham Jazz Festival. Photo: Spencer McPherson©Spencer McPherson

Christian Scott at the Chelteham Jazz Festival. Photo: Spencer McPherson

“This one’s going out for Donald Trump,” vocalist José James announced midway by means of his Saturday lunchtime set. Three verses of sharply worded rhyming followed the opening line “No a lot more political monsters” then came syllable-crunching wordplay on “We’re living in a po-lice-state”, and oblique, beautifully sung references to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit”, swirling out of a mist of vocalese and jazz assistance.

James is a major figure amongst the growing quantity of musicians who blend hip-hop, classic black music and jazz extemporisation into a potent modern aesthetic. Musically, if not politically, he established the central theme of a festival whose primary jazz strand was dominated by the rhythms and textures of urban America.

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Earlier in the set, James had delivered a Bill Withers medley that riffed on “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” and morphed “Grandma’s Hands” into “Ain’t No Sunshine”. In a outstanding overall performance, he simulated the scratches of a hip-hop DJ, pulled words apart and worked up a sweat with bass guitarist Solomon Dorsey.

But for the most part, the American presented original material. Some songs, such as the ballad “Let it Fall” and the hook-driven “Trouble”, were delivered straight. Mainly, though, James and his band deconstructed black American music with the flow of improvised jazz, switching simply from classic soul to the bleak textures and precise beats of hip-hop. The encore featured Takesho Obayashi’s gospel-infused keyboards and was devoted to Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. As it twisted and turned, James and his excellent trio conjured a lot of their spirit.

Later, US saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his band Twi-Life presented a set based on their recent CD Nihil Novi . Strickland is a powerful musical presence with a centred tone thickened by hints of electronica and an articulation as sharp as a snare-drum crack. The band opened with a pre-recorded monologue which had as its theme the artist as truth-teller and was supported by a piano figure that captured the bittersweet feel of a Dr Dre production.

Strickland stuck mostly to tenor sax and delivered his compositions in clumps of three. Clear-cut melodies acted as indicators, textures changed, and bursts of concentrated power raised the temperature of an currently heated functionality. There had been individual dedications — “Mingus”, a warm individual tribute to the late bassist the ballad “Truth”, name-checked for Prince — and three compositions featured solid R&ampB by guest vocalist Jean Baylor.

With the rhythm section as assured as the leader, this was a classic combo performance, albeit with a thoroughly modern vibe. Bassist Karl Miles was outstanding in the holding function, combining rhythmic drive with melodic flair.

1 of the quirks of this year’s festival was the pop-up performances of Alex Hawkins’s “Enviroment Music”, scored for trumpets and strings. Scattered throughout the various auditoria, the musicians involved would preface the principal acts with their ethereal drones and chirrups. Somewhat strange when encountered ahead of Jazz Jamaica’s orchestral tribute to Bob Marley, they reappeared as the calm before the storm before Tim Berne’s visceral Saturday night set in the intimate Parabola Theatre.

Brooklyn-primarily based alto saxophonist Berne has a relaxed, wisecracking stage persona that is somewhat at odds with the orchestrated higher-power abstractions of his music. This set presented four of his convoluted themes played in unison by Berne and clarinettist Oscar Noriega.

The opener, “Surface Noise”, was introduced by a smash of Ches Smith’s cymbals it was followed by “Spare Parts”, “Third Operation” and “The Imperfect Ten”, set up respectively by a slow rumble of piano, ululations of sax and clarinet, and a whisper of breath. In every single case, the band coalesced into a looped, Byzantine melody and progressed through a full spectrum of improv.

Impressively, Berne structured every single piece to stay away from repetition and developed a robust group sound that produced the most of his musicians’ talents. Smith is an outstanding percussionist/vibraphonist and new recruit Ryan Ferreira adds a variety of distortions and resonances on guitar. At one particular moment he would add crunch to the front line’s furious phonics, at yet another the resonant echo of a 1950s film noir soundtrack. Berne calls his band Snake Oil — a significant case of underselling.

Sunday opened with a tribute to the late British pianist John Taylor, who celebrated his 70th birthday at the festival final year, and had been due to play this year with the trio Meadow. Right here, the remaining two members — airy-toned saxophonist Tore Brunborg and supple percussionist Thomas Strønen — presented new music with guest bassist Anders Jormin. Together they delivered the folk-derived melodies, gentle rhythms and uncluttered structures of Nordic jazz in a moving and tranquil tribute.

It would be challenging to imagine a higher contrast with the polyrhythmic thrust of Christian Scott. The New Orleans-born trumpeter’s latest CD, Stretch Music , is laced with samples, sequencers and sparse funky beats. He reprised some of this material at his late afternoon set, but, he told us, this was a new band producing its debut, and some jazz classics would be thrown in. As a result Herbie Hancock’s “Eye of the Hurricane” and John Coltrane’s modal blues “Equinox” sat alongside characteristic Scott themes.

The contrast amongst the vintage numbers, with zip-and-ping drums driving strutting walking bass, and the newer ones, with their hip-hop inflected backbeats and bends, was plain to hear. But so also were the connections between jazz and the modern mainstream.

Scott adds technical edge to the plaintive melancholy of Miles Davis, and here identified the best foil with alto saxophonist Logan Richardson. It was a wonderful set from a band whose tight handle of light and shade belied its apparently impromptu nature.

The evening ended with an upbeat set from veteran saxophonist David Sanborn, an early mixer of urban rhythms and modern day jazz. Here he whizzed by means of back-catalogue favourites — “Mputo” and “Camel Island” stood out — and covered Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star” and D’Angelo’s “Spanish Joint”.

Politics surfaced once again right here, when Sanborn introduced his bittersweet, blues-laced instrumental “Common People”, with a passionate monologue bemoaning America’s self-serving political elite. “It’s the very same over right here,” I heard somebody whisper nearby. With an audience plainly on the same wavelength, good results was guaranteed.

cheltenhamfestivals.com

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Marcel/Tipping Point, London International Mime Festival

Marcello Magni in ‘Marcel’. Photo: Alastair Muir©Alastair Muir

Marcello Magni in ‘Marcel’. Photo: Alastair Muir

The annual London International Mime Festival has extended left behind the traditional notion of the mime artist: many shows now push at the boundaries of physical theatre. But Marcel, this year’s festival opener, at the Shaw Theatre, features all the old favourites: opening invisible doors, walking down non-existent stairs, mistiming a handshake more than and more than once again. That’s since this droll, bittersweet two-hander examines ageing by way of the medium of clowning.

Marcello Magni and Jos Houben met in the early 1980s, both working for the groundbreaking company Complicite. No longer very so supple, they’ve chosen to tackle this head-on in a deceptively basic show that draws on their own previous and on the history of clowning, reaching back as far as commedia dell’arte.

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Magni’s ageing, besuited tiny character is summoned for a verify-up by some mysterious, Kafkaesque institution, where Houben’s stern examiner puts him through a baffling set of tests. Anxious to please — and to pass — Magni exerts himself valiantly, but is tripped up by slapstick at each and every opportunity. Props stubbornly resist command his own physique rebels. It is the physical comedy version of Death of a Salesman.

A lot of of the gags are corny — deliberately so — and the show relishes the delight of raising a laugh with tried-and-tested routines. But while gently daft, it is also immensely poignant. Houben, tall, lean, forbidding, and Magni, tiny, plumper, eager, make an archetypal double act. There’s more than a hint of Beckett about their bewildering circumstances and a dark undertow to Magni’s desperate attempts to stave off the inevitable. Performed with consummate dexterity, this is a show that speaks to the fear in every person of getting deemed redundant and defies that fear by generating ancient jokes really feel fresh.

Alex Harvey and Emily Nicholl of Ockham’s Razor in ‘Tipping Point’. Photo: Jane Hobson©Jane Hobson

Alex Harvey and Emily Nicholl of Ockham’s Razor in ‘Tipping Point’. Photo: Jane Hobson

Simplicity is also a key principle for Ockham’s Razor in their new perform Tipping Point, displaying at the Platform Theatre. Right here 5 skilled acrobatic performers weave delicate narratives using just lengthy swinging poles and handfuls of chalk. In element it is a 3D geometry and physics lesson, as the five produce mesmerising patterns and send each and every other spinning by way of space via judicious use of weight and counterbalance. But there is also a playground glee to it all — one daredevil sequence resembles kids swinging on a rope across a river.

And throughout, there is a touching exploration of trust and betrayal. Emily Nicholl performs a routine on parallel bars kept in perpetual motion by her colleagues. So agile is she that they mischievously move them more quickly and more rapidly — till she falls off. It takes the entire show for her to trust them once again and when she does, the result is a stunning aerial dance, in the course of which 1 of her partners dangles her from on higher by just one foot.

The show is peppered with related tipping points, mathematical, physical and private, so that you see the prospective danger and the co-operation that averts it. But it is all executed with a playful lightness of touch and the finish — as a circling pole draws a giant Spirograph pattern on the floor — quietly sums up the mix of childhood game and ritual.

Festival runs to February six, mimelondon.com

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HighTide Festival, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK — overview

There is significantly to admire in the four dramas staged by this festival for emerging playwrights

Luke Norris's 'So Here We Are'©Nobby Clark

Luke Norris’s ‘So Here We Are’

Now in its ninth year, HighTide Festival has grow to be an important platform for “emerging” — and a lot more emerged — British playwrights. This year the organisation has made and co-developed 4 plays for its 10-day event, whose programme also functions script readings, comedy and music shows, talks and events. The festival has moved from Halesworth to the pretty seaside town of Aldeburgh, exactly where venues variety from the large Jubilee Hall (original house of the Aldeburgh Music Festival established by Benjamin Britten in 1948) to a tiny Victorian pumphouse.

Louise Mai Newberry and Steven Elder in 'Lampedusa'©Nobby Clark

Louise Mai Newberry and Steven Elder in ‘Lampedusa’

Lampedusa, a searing play about migration and immigration by Anders Lustgarten, is staged in a dome-shaped tent on Aldeburgh beach. It flaps in the wind and seagulls cry as out-of-operate fisherman Stefano (Steven Elder) describes his job as a coastguard hauling dead bodies from the sea. The small Italian island of the title is struggling to accommodate the refugees arriving in teetering boats, but a lot of do not make it. Stefano’s story is told alongside that of Denise (Louise Mai Newberry), a spiky payday loan collector in Yorkshire struggling with racist insults from clientele (she’s half Chinese) and the threat of her mother’s disability advantage getting withdrawn.

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Lustgarten is an activist as effectively as a writer and at occasions the play guidelines into polemic, but the two stories work beautifully together, and the finale is practically nothing short of heart-rending. Lampedusa was very first performed at London’s Soho Theatre earlier this year to fantastic acclaim (like 4 stars from the FT) and transfers to the Unity Theatre in Liverpool this month. As Europe’s refugee crisis worsens, it feels much more urgent than ever.

Al Smith’s Harrogate, premiering at HighTide, is yet another intense two-hander. A fraught father-daughter connection unfolds over 3 acts, with Nick Sidi playing the father in each and every whilst Sarah Ridgeway shifts roles subtly as factors progress (to say any far more would reveal the twist). He wants to manage his teenage daughter, doling out money but only for the “right” footwear or a particular telephone. Like a lot of parents, he can’t assist correcting her grammar, but his frequent reminders of what he has paid for, and what she owes him, become a nervous tic: a sign that one thing is not correct.

Sarah Ridgeway in 'Harrogate'©Nobby Clark

Sarah Ridgeway in ‘Harrogate’

In this family, relationships are performed as a series of tense transactions by which each party tries to satisfy desires they can not very admit to. They play games with each other just as Harrogate plays games with its audience, setting up and then confounding our expectations. On a higher traverse stage, set designer Tom Piper’s empty white apartment feels as stark and sterile as the hospital where the mother functions: it is as though her family is being presented up for examination. Smith’s writing is punchy, sometimes bruising, and the performances — specifically Ridgeway’s — are compelling.

Repressed sexuality is also a theme of Luke Norris’s new play So Here We Are, which transfers to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre later this month. Right after Frankie’s funeral, four of his friends — his 5-a-side-football teammates — are waiting for a lift property. Conversation slips from boyish banter to cutting jibes and pangs of grief. These are friendships begun in childhood, marked by shared experience and deep understanding but also, now, by distance amongst the twentysomethings. And a question hangs more than the play: was Frankie’s death genuinely an accident? The second half shows us the days preceding it, the lies and longing of a young man adrift.

Norris’s dialogue is razor sharp, and his portrayal of male friendships in a functioning-class Essex town feels spot on. The cast is exceptional and Steven Atkinson’s direction sensitive, varying the tempo nicely and drawing out the black humour. But the second half is less convincing, the explanation for Frankie’s death also neat and his character too sketchily drawn. The very first half shows Norris at his best, peppered with witty a single-liners and underscored by a poignant sense of loss, the friends mourning Frankie, themselves and a childhood all of a sudden ended.

E.V. Crowe’s Brenda, also, explores shifting identity. “I’m not a individual,” the eponymous young lady (Alison O’Donnell) tells her loving, worried boyfriend (Jack Tarlton). Struggling to meet their rent, the couple prepare to address a neighborhood action group who may be in a position to help. But for Brenda, even saying her name is a challenge. Marked by extended silences and surreal imagery, Brenda plays bold games with reality and theatricality, but ultimately fails to convince. Who is Brenda and what occurred to her? We in no way find out. Perhaps that’s the point, but someone who thinks she’s not a particular person need to nevertheless really feel like a character.

To September 20, hightide.org.uk

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