|Credit: Tim Dickeson|
misheard as Portuguese Woman!), but the more 'violent' (as Neset described it) Boxer was also a highpoint. And interesting to see a totally different demographic at a lunchtime festival concert - clearly the Brighton jazz scene were out in force, and very appreciative of the young performers, as was I. So, this year's first experiment for me scored a big tick!
Neset, M. 2013. Birds. Marius Neset et al. Compact Disc. Edition Records EDN1040.
Just an hour later, I was back in the Studio Theatre (formerly the Pavilion Theatre) for another experiment - this time a book reading. The book in question was 'Fanny and Stella', which tells the true story of a remarkable sub-culture of cross-dressing amongst gay men in Victorian England, and the cause célèbre that Fanny Park and Stella Boulton's trial became. The author, Neil McKenna began by talking about some of the context for this. He managed to be very entertaining at the same time as raising some quite political issues about how gay history is portrayed and perceived. I was particularly interested in his argument that conventionally, gay people in the past are portrayed solely as victims of oppression and as sad or tormented characters. Whilst he in no way said that oppression did not occur, as the trial described in his book shows,
he also pointed out that here was an example of gay men being who they wanted to be, and living in longstanding relationships, even supported by their families. He then proceeded to read a chapter from the book, which focused on Miss Ann Empson, who ran a boarding house where Lord Arthur Pelham-Clinton took rooms. Lord Arthur was Stella's husband, and Miss Empson appeared in the trial giving evidence about the visitors to Lord Arthur's rooms, and of cross-dressing that occurred there. McKenna describes the woman's prurient prejudice, mixed with her obvious delight at being central to the trial, as well as her obvious fondness for a tipple, with great humour. I've bought the book, and am looking forward to reading more about this incredible story. An important piece in the jigsaw of gay history which deserves to be told.
McKenna, N. 2013. Fanny & Stella. Faber & Faber, London.
|Credit: Eric Manas|
|Credit: Noémie Reijnen|
were delightful, as was the humour in Poisson d'or. Liszt's Variations on 'Weinen, klagen, sorgen, zargen' take the contained chromaticism of Bach's chorus and unleash it, and Silocea equally took flight in this virtuoso piece, yet returned to a beautiful joyous calm for the closing chorale setting. The programme also included Ravel's incredibly difficult Jeux d'eau, and again, Silocea ably rose to its challenges. Yet the most inspired bit of programming here was to end with two of Liszt's arrangements of Schubert songs - Der Müller und der Bach from Die schöne Müllerin, and Auf dem Wasser zu singen. Liszt still manages to find virtuosity here, but Schubert's touching beauty speaks through, and Silocea communicated this perfectly. Overall, I enjoyed this recital way more than the previous day's - a recital must surely be about communication with the audience, and even if the venue and repertoire assist, the performer still needs to want to engage. Her latest album, Sound Waves, includes most of the repertoire she performed here, out on 13 May 2013.
Various. 2013. Sound Waves. Alexandra Silocea. Compact Disc. Avie AV2266.
To finish off the day, it was over to the Dome for Cirque Éloize's fantasy circus piece, Cirkopolis. Inspired by Kafka, Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Fritz Lang's Metropolis, using film production and a stark industrial set, the twelve performers explored the fantasy world of a man trapped in the machine who dreamed of dance and of a beautiful woman. There is juggling, ring work, aerial acrobatics, amazing feats of balance and strength, and more - and at the end of the day, colour wins out, even when the central character returns to his desk. At times beautiful, poignant and touching, this ultimately was a surprisingly life-affirming show. I attended a matinée performance, full of families and children, and I wondered if the dark, frightening setting would appeal to young children - but judging by the audience response, they loved it just as much as I did!
More from Week 1 to follow....