Experimental Music

This concert at the Royal College of Music presented experimental musical pieces from composers from several decades. My favourite was the Philip Glass piece Music in Contrary Motion, but the evening as a whole was thought-provoking, varied and interesting.

Germán Alonso El Gran Cabron for saxophone and four channel live electronics
Nicole Lizée Hitchcock Etudes 1 and 2 for piano, electronics and video
Georg Friedrich Haas Ein Schattenspiel for piano and live electronics (excerpt)
Mary Jane Leach Note passing note for voice and pre-recorded voices (excerpt)
Matthew Shlomowitz First movement from Popular context 1 for piano and samples
Philip Glass Music in Contrary Motion (excerpts, version for piano)
Mary Jane Leach Xantippe’s Rebuke for oboe and 8 taped oboes
Cowell Eolian Harp for inside piano
Ezko Kikoutchi Cainabeladameve for two performers
Mark Applebaum Aphasia for performer and tape
Matthew Shlomowitz Hi-Hat and Me for hi-hat and voice
Vinko Globokar Corporel? for body percussion
Salvatore Sciarrino Caprice #6 for violin


Composers’ Studio

This event featured new compositions from RCM students, a varied range of works which were all very different.

Allan Chen Semblance
Joseph Wistow “…plains, stumbling in cracked earth”
Antonio Bretenfeld Retellings
Sophie Sparkes Fractured Resonances
Connor d’Netto breaking, tearing

International Women’s Day Recital

This recital at the Royal College of Music celebrated International Women’s Day, focusing on songs by female composers and writers. It featured songs by the likes of Pauline Viardot, Clara Schumann, the Boulanger sisters and more, interspersed with quotations from poets and writers like Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson. An enjoyable event.


I went to see Pariah by August Strindberg, the first time I experienced ‘Lunchbox Theatre’ at the Bridewell Theatre – plays are performed at 1pm, last under an hour, and you can bring your lunch. It’s ideal for those who work close by and want to see a play in their lunch hour. Sadly I don’t work close enough to take advantage of this, so I took the day off instead. You can’t say I’m not dedicated.

The play centres on two men, caught in a storm, who have taken refuge in a farmhouse. A box of gold sits on the table. Both men have committed crimes, but only one was caught and punished. The play becomes a battle of wills between the men: who is the most guilty? Is it right that one was punished for his crime and another was not? The audience is left to wonder if either of them has really atoned.

Despite the short running time – or perhaps because of it – the play makes a strong impact. I was left thinking about the issues it raised for a long time. The set is minimal, consisting of a table, a couple of chairs and a handful of props, but that was really all that was needed. Both actors did a fine job, and I’m glad I made the effort to see this play.

The Dog Beneath the Skin

The Jermyn Street Theatre’s latest discovery, a 1930s play by W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood, is a true curiosity. The Dog Beneath the Skin begins in a small English village, Pressan Ambo, where, ten years ago, the local heir Francis Crewe disappeared. Each year, a young man of the village is chosen to search for Francis. Many young men have already gone and never returned, but Alan Norman hopes to be more successful, especially as he is accompanied by a mysterious but exceptionally intelligent dog. His quest takes him across Europe and back to England, making new friends and enemies as he goes.

It’s not really that hard to see why this play is so rarely staged. It’s bitty and episodic, with jarring stylistic contrasts: it’s incredibly obvious which bits were written by Auden (evocative rhyming couplets) and which by Isherwood (noir-esque natural dialogue). Some scenes are amusing and satirical, and it’s true that the piece is atmospheric and eerily prescient in terms of the forthcoming world war. Yet the central premise makes no sense and left me with a question mark.

Proud Haddock’s production itself, directed by Jimmy Walters, can’t be faulted, with an adaptable set by Rebecca Brower, complete with mini theatre, and superb performances all round from the cast, most of whom play a variety of different roles. It was certainly an interesting experience, but not one I’ll be rushing to repeat.

The Game of Love and Chai

The Game of Love and Chai is a modern adaptation of Marivaux’s eighteenth-century farce The Game of Love and Chance, written by Nigel Planer. In this Tara Theatre production, directed by Jatinder Verma, a young British Indian woman, Rani, is asked by her mother to meet a potential suitor, wealthy businessman Raj. Wanting to put him to the test, Rani asks her cousin Sita to swap places with her at their first meeting. Unbeknownst to her, however, Raj has done exactly the same thing, exchanging places with his driver Nitin to check out Rani in secret.

Right from the start, the show is madcap, fast-paced and OTT. It takes some getting used to, but once you’re drawn in it’s very funny, very silly and hugely entertaining. Sharon Singh and Adam Samuel-Bal are great as the two spirited lovers, while Kiren Jogi and Ronny Jhutti are hilarious as the two disguised friends. Cheering them on are mother Kamala (Goldy Notay), uncoventional and easygoing, and brother Sunny (Deven Modha), who gets many of the best lines.

The programme notes that “Marivaux, Molière, Shakespeare and Sheridan were the earliest Western playwrights to be introduced to India, along with proscenium arch theatre architecture, in the 18th century. These influences led directly to modern Bollywood cinema”. Given this context, the modern updated setting of the play seems entirely appropriate. With colourful costumes and a script that calls for frequent bouts of dancing, this is a great show to cheer you up after all the miserable weather lately. Extremely daft but full of heart, it’s hugely entertaining.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I’ve seen Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream many times, but never Benjamin Britten’s opera, until now. Students at the Royal College of Music have staged a new and original production of this work.

The opera is very similar to the play in many respects, making use of Shakespeare’s words. The music is atmospheric and often quite unsettling, reflecting the eerie magical atmosphere of the original work. The character of Puck particularly stands out in this version, being the only one who doesn’t sing.

The best thing about this production was the setting: Wiemar Germany, a Cabaret-themed underworld with glitter and sparkle, into which the two couples, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, unwittingly wander. In addition to this, the character of Bottom sports a Hitler moustache, giving the character’s traditional arrogance a more chilling aspect. I wish this had been explored further in the Players’ performance at the end, which, however, was very funny.

Seeing the operatic version gave me a new way of looking at this play, and the setting was just brilliant. The performers did a great job, too. Definitely recommended.