Review: Öper Öpis

January 15, 2010

How often can you say you have been to see a show at the theatre, and been completely blown away? Taken somewhere where only the imagination can dream of such things, or perhaps just drawn into a story and then seeing it explode in front of you?

When watching Öper Öpis at the Barbican Centre by Zimmermand and de Perrot I am reminded of the following quote written by Lyn Gardner from The Guardian in her article ‘Theatre Must Chance… Us’:

“When I’m in the theatre, I want to feel as if some kind of risk is taking place, that I might be taken somewhere I find scary – that the performers will surprise me and as a result I will surprise myself.”

Öper Öpis is for me, that moment of being taken somewhere that surprises you – a place you find so compelling and intoxicating that you have to remember to breathe. Öper Öpis is quite literally breath taking.

So what happens when you take 5 circus/physical theatre artists, 1 choreographer and 1 music genius, throw them together in a collaborative melting pot with the aim of producing a piece of theatre? The answer: a night worth remembering! Öper Öpis enthralled my senses, made me gasp and laugh in all the right moments, no wonder it was the opening event for the London International Mime Festival 2010.

There are so many points to make about this performance that it’s hard to know where to begin. There is the stage design, the musical score, the choreography, the circus acts, the energy, the delivery, and on and on the list goes…

Zimmerman and de Perrot

We are met by Zimmerman and de Perrot setting the stage – a collection of odd wooden blocks that they position into place along the front of their tilted stage. Then looping of sound is captured from the falling of the blocks as they get knocked over. Gradually this is combined with music, to create a surreal sound scape that underscores the whole performance. This music is put together masterfully, at times the bass rumbled through the Barbican Theatre as if in a club and coupled with the scratching of records in the loop it’s hard not to get lost in this sound scape alone.

The performers of Öper Öpis are odd, when compared with each other they represent two ends of the specturum, from little to large in weight, to small and ginormous in height. They can only be described as a bit of a freak circus show – yet looking beyond their appearance (which in turn is comic), these performers are skilled beyond belief. They dance, they juggle, they throw themselves around the stage, the jump off each other and perform tricks to integrated with the music that it becomes as one.

Some highlights for me included the slapping of thighs from the largest of performers creating a looping thigh repeated slaps in the music to the areobatics act who suddenly producers a chair instead of the other performer from no where.

It is hard to know where to look during the performance, as the action happens on a stage that tilts with the performers as they move. This design beautifully mirrors the performers in their balancing acts of leadership and contrasts of shape and size. The stage rocks from one side to another never fully settling into place before the performers push it into another direction.

The choreography of the piece is crafted in such a way that the 70 minute performance flies past. No wonder the show won the Swiss Dance and Choreography Award in 2009. It is executed in such a manner that the performers are alive with energy and skill. There is no dialogue but what better language that of the way a body moves in space?

Circus is often an under appreciated art form but Zimmerman and de Perrot have turned it into something much more than just tricks and skill. Their blending of music, dance, circus, and performance creates an inspiring show.

Öper Öpis is part of the London International Mime Festival 2010, and also in association with the Barbican Bite 10 programme. The show is only on until 16th January 2010, but check out Zimmerman and de Perrot’s website for clips and more tour dates.

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The Theatre of 2010 – My Hopes

December 31, 2009

Whilst people are making their New Year Resolutions, and institutes are celebrating what 2009 held for theatre listing the best of the best, and even the worse of the worse… I’m looking beyond all of this. We’ve already seen several Hot Tips appearing for theatre in 2010, and with new season announces each week the anticipation for the first big sellers is getting exciting. For me, I’m hoping 2010 will see the start of change in theatre.

So without further hesitation, here are A Younger Theatres’ Hopes for Theatre in 2010…

#1 Continued West End Ticket Sales – Recession was a hot topic on everyone’s lips during 2009. We saw numerous companies go into Administration and disappear off our high streets. Purses and wallets were firmly kept shut, yet somehow the West End saw an increase in ticket sales and remarkably out riding the recession. They say that theatre is a form of escapism and perhaps audiences were inclined to spend their money on musicals and plays to forget their woes. Whatever the reason, let’s hope that 2010 continues with the sales and theatre shows us what it is really made of during finical crisis.

#2 Lighting In The Lime Light – The forgotten talent in theatre. I hope that in 2010 lighting gets the recognition that it readily deserves, that critics take up their pen and paper and focus on how these wonderful shows they are writing about are seen through the designs painstakingly made by lighting designers. It’s as if this area of theatre gets completely lost in the lime light of the actors who are being lit. Lighting is atmospheric, stunning and highly creative – so lets see people talking about it more, instead of leaving it in the dark. (Let’s also hope the lighting puns/jokes stop too… lime light?! What was I thinking?)

#3 Younger People Breaking Through – The very nature of this blog is for myself to have a platform to express my thoughts and feelings on something that I completely adore. I admit wholeheartedly I am young, at 21 years old, and writing about theatre in the best fashion I can. 2009 has taught me that there is a gap within theatre that is slowly being filled with the younger generations, be it through youth theatres gaining greater success, or the new breed of playwrights getting younger. What I hope for though is that we start to see the written form of the younger generations as critics such as myself having a greater platform in discussing both theatre and the arts.  We might not have the many years of theatre under our belts like Billington, but we do come with passion and a whole new point of view. 2010, let it be the Year of the Younger Generations!

#4 Internships On Top – The recession might not have dampened ticket sales in the West End but jobs in the arts are drying up, where a single advertisement can get several hundred people applying. 2009 saw the boom in the Internship, something I discuss here. My hopes for 2010 is for Internships to continue with the increasing number of applicants but also to begin to evolve with this demand. Internships allow for much learning, but lets not squash that learning by it becoming the norm. Let 2010 keep Internships on top form.

#5 Ecofriendly Theatre – Our climate is changing, but what are theatres doing about it? The Arcola Theatre is one of the leading theatres in taking the green initiative and adapting their theatre to tackle climate change. I hope that 2010 sees other theatres taking up the greener side of theatre – LED Lights anyone? What more, I’d like to see bigger theatres doing their bit and proposing how they will tackle a more enviromentally friendly theatre for 2010.

#6 Social Media For Better – Phenomenons such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way theatres are now engaging with their audiences. We saw the first devised opera through the means of Twitter – a great collaboration between audience and the Royal Opera House. Twitter has enabled theatres to tell us more, to give insights into what lies behind the walls, deep in the offices and backstage areas. It has allowed voices to emerge from the depths of theatres. Let’s hope 2010 brings more engagement with audiences through the joys of Social Media, and better improvement on how it is effectively used in marketing campaigns.

#7 The London Fringe Festival – The talk of the town after an announcement was made that there is to be the London Fringe Festival in August 2010. What can I say to this? My hope is simply this: The organisers realise that their attempts at putting on a Fringe Festival in London during August when the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is taking place is barbaric. If they want to make this a success, they have to base their model on something that is not already in place. My hope for 2010 is that this festival either completely flops or completely blows all our minds. Whatever the outcome – let it be a lesson learnt. (Let’s also hope for a better website, better organisation, and better ideas for this 2010 Fringe Festival…)

So here are a few of my hopes for the Theatre of 2010… what are your hopes?


Review: Made In Russia, Sacred Festival

October 26, 2009

Sacred FestivalThe Sacred Festival is in full swing now at the Chelsea Theatre, and as mentioned in my previous article here, it is one not to be missed. Bursting with contemporary practitioners, and theatre pieces from across Europe, there is hidden in the depths of Chelsea, a creative oasis.

What happens when you take two Russians, heavily involved in dance, and allow them to collaborate together on a theatre piece that both explores their own identity as performers but also interweaves a narrative of past experiences? Made In Russia is the outcome. A slightly surreal and bizarre post-modern theatre piece created, conceived and performed by Andrei Andrianov and Oled Soulimenko.

It’s hard to place my thoughts on this piece. I felt slightly disengaged by the performance at first. A purposeful detachment made by the performers stating how they wanted to start the piece with notable famous characters but failed to get them due to money. They start again. The performers stating how they wanted to start the piece with… they start again. It is repetitive, yet it is slightly addictive, the English subtitles playing comically behind the two exposed performers.

The piece shifts between small narratives delivered into a microphone, to varying styles of dance and further disengaging through recorded speech and the use of a television screen. Soulimnko and Andianov reveal small pieces of information about their lives, their careers and their various engagements with dance. They move between comic persona and expressive pieces of dance.

They speak of their relationship with Maya Plisetskaya and Jean-Luc Godard. It’s a focus point, a place that the narratives seem to always return to. Yet equally Made In Russia allows for the spectator to get lost in movements, the rolling images on the television screen and the speaking voices from the boom box. It blurs the boundaries between a dance piece and a post-modern theatre piece.

Made In Russia is a fragmented dance piece of captivating moments, of images, songs, lights, images.

It’s a body moving in space to robot styled music and a monotone voice delivering a letter to a lost friend, a lost collaborator.

It’s a moment in time expressed in a body transcended into a theatrical black box.

It is a metaphor.

It is a performance piece I do not quite understand but can appreciate.

The piece in both Russian and English also expresses the performers concerns with taking this very same piece of dance theatre to an English audience. “We must speak in English”, because apparently it is more accessible when spoken in English, yet equally the Russian language becomes slightly magical.

An hour later, as the performances draws to an end I struggle to comprehend how this dance theatre piece has managed to draw me into the depths of Russian culture and how I feel slightly compassionate towards these two Russian dancing men. I feel touched and actually proud to know that I’ve witnessed a Russian contemporary piece of theatre, that I was a witness to this happening.

The Sacred Festival of Contemporary Theatre and Performance is currently on at the Chelsea Theatre, see their website for a full listing of events.


Sacred Festival – Chelsea Theatre

October 19, 2009

Sacred FestivalLondon is most certainly a buzzing place, bursting full of life and events, so much so that it can sometimes be a bit difficult to focus on what might be worth a trip to and what just gets buried under the heap of other things that happening. Shamefully, theatre is one of those things that easily saturated with new shows, events and even festivals, meaning a lot gets missed.

Festivals, bringing together artists, shows, discussions, and generally speaking a whole excitement of culture are not to be missed. Especially that of Theatre Festivals, so let me draw your attention to the Sacred Festival being held next week at the Chelsea Theatre. It’s well worth a look.

The Sacred Festival has been running since 2006 at the Chelsea Theatre and has magically passed under my radar each year. However with the sort of line up within this years festival, I struggle to see how it’s not the talk of the town… yet. The festival focuses on Contemporary Theatre and whilst this is quite a broad spectrum, 2009 see’s the Chelsea Theatre linked with leading Austrian venue, Brut in Vienna and a whole host of leading and well known contemporary theatre practitioners.

The festival has so many promising events and shows that its hard to know where to begin, but here are a few highlights that should be noted in your diaries:

The Merry Widow by Cezary Tomaszewski

The Merry Widow by Cezary Tomaszewski

First comes Cezary Tomaszewski’s new production, an operetta called The Merry Widow. What is most intriguing about Tomaszewski’s production is that it uses four real-life Polish cleaning ladies. Taking the piece into quite an interesting dimension which promises to “free the genre from the dusts of simplicity and naivety and succeeds in placing into the centre of attention those who are otherwise almost wholly excluded from cultural creative processes.”

I'm Thinking Of Your (Version 2) by Franco B

I'm Thinking Of Your (Version 2) by Franco B

Franco B, a well known performance artist for using his body as a canvas for performance will be presenting his new show, I’m Thinking Of You (Version 2). Seeking to “present a surreal, dreamlike image… a romantic vision of childhood fantasy and abandon. The body is central, but we are also presented with objects and music, which converge to take the viewer through a contemplative, personal experience.” It will most certainly be one of the highlights of the festival for me, having heard of Franco B through many methods.

Other performances I’m eager to see include Action Hero‘s contemporary version of A Western, who are turning into a well known company on the contemporary theatre circuit. Originally from the depths of Bristol, I first heard of Action Hero last year during May Fest and since then the likes of Lyn Gardener regularly praises them. Including in the must see performances are Gob Squads show Live Long and Prosper, although a video instillation it will certainly prove to be just has fun, whacky and promising as their earlier work.

Sacred Festival isn’t just about performances though. There are a number of post show discussions with the various artists who are performing, which are completely free. Also there are several workshops that you can attend with some of the practitioners including ‘Writing for performance’ by Lone Twin, and ‘Art, Sex and Politics’ by Franco B.

For more information on the festival, see the Chelsea Theatre website… and if anything, get yourself down to see some of Europes best artists in a small but delightful theatre.

The Sacred Festival runs at the Chelsea Theatre from 21st October to 22nd November 2009