Sunday Salon, the occasional blog that brings you all the arts.
Today a rattling good story, two very different theatre experiences and a concert.
She Who Goes Forth by Audrey Driscoll
I posted this review on Amazon.co.uk, but it was rejected! I also posted it on Goodreads, giving it five stars.
Whether you are young or can remember setting out in life on your own, you will connect with France our heroine in this ripping yarn. She is the new girl and nothing in Luxor, Egypt is as she was expecting. France finds herself with a complex set of colleagues and like anyone new does not know what is going on. But with her trusty cello by her side she does not let much daunt her. Although this novel is a fantasy, it portrays real people at an interesting time in history. We are not sure at first what is truth, what is France’s imagination or what part others have played in the strange happenings. Then events start to happen fast and there are terrifying page turning moments as France’s life changes forever.
Whatever your taste in music, drama or films; going out to a live event is always an experience.
The Pavilion, Bournemouth
The Pavilion has been celebrating its ninetieth birthday, not the oldest theatre in the country, but it has seen off two winter gardens and survived several attempts at closure or change.
The actual birthday night was celebrated with a trip back in time, three hours of varied entertainment for less than £10. A municipal orchestra was recreated and rose from the orchestra pit. This was followed by amateur silent film of Bournemouth in 1929 and newsreel films accompanied by the fantastic Compton theatre organ, which can also pop up and down and can make the whole theatre vibrate. At the many keyboards was Donald Mackenzie who plays its sister organ at the Odeon Leicester Square.
After the interval was a showing of my favourite old musical, 42nd Street, made in 1933 when movies had made a great leap forward from silent to large scale musicals. The first time I watched it was when the lovely Art Deco cinema in Christchurch was having its eightieth birthday in 2011. On that occasion Mark Kermode, film critic from the BBC, introduced the movie and declared how great it was that the little cinema was still using real ( reel ) film. Shortly afterwards the cinema went digital; modern technology has to be embraced to keep these places busy and functioning…
Meanwhile back at the Pavilion I enjoyed the film again, great music and a show business story that is still relevant, the fat bloke with the cigar and the money was Weinstein. As the film finished the organ rose from the pit with a resounding chord and played the National Anthem and yes we did all stand. Happy Birthday followed to round off a good evening.
Lighthouse Arts Centre, Poole
The Lighthouse opened in 1978 and has a concert hall, theatre, studio and cinema. We went to the theatre to see ‘Dracula The Bloody Truth’ a family friendly show with the premise that Bram Stoker stole a true story. Exeter based Le Navet Bete are committed to creating hilarious, physical and totally accessible comedy theatre using creative and engaging storytelling. The four chaps played many roles between them, including all the ladies. Their timing was brilliant as they mistimed everything, knocked scenery over or spoke each other’s lines. By the end of the first half, most of the set had fallen onto the stage. It was hilarious for the adults, but even better, the theatre was filled with the genuine laughter of children.
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, has not been based in Bournemouth since it moved to the Lighthouse; it plays its main season of concerts there and some are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 – make sure you have your mobile phones turned off! But it still plays some concerts at the Pavilion and also in other towns all over the South West of England, as well as spreading out its members to work with schools and care homes.
Even if you are not interested in classical music you probably have an idea what happens at a live concert and you would be right… audience sits down as orchestra come on and start tuning, leader of orchestra comes on, more applause, conductor and perhaps the soloist comes on; even greater applause and they haven’t even done anything yet, but they look smart. If there are choir seats behind the orchestra and no singing planned the audience can sit up there and get a great view of the percussion section, although I always worry the huge cymbals are going to go flying backwards into the audience as the percussionist strikes them with gusto. I have never tried these seats as it involves lots of clambering around watched by everybody else in the auditorium and it would be embarrassing to trip. On broadcast nights you can watch the radio presenter chatting away silently to the microphone in his little booth at the side of the stage…
But every concert can be different and there is plenty to watch. Serious concert goers who all know each other, school parties, restless children and inevitably some people who fall asleep; even the most ardent music lover can find their eyelids, or worse, their head drooping as a busy day catches up with them and they sit in warm comfort soothed by the music… and what of those going for the first time? At one concert, as we all filed up the shallow steps to the exit doors at the back, I heard a woman behind me saying to her chap
‘I feel like I’ve been run over by a tractor.’
You have no soul, it was fantastic.
‘Don’t ever bring me to a live concert again, I don’t mind listening to Classic FM on the radio…’
At a recent concert nobody knew what to expect and the conductor gave us an introduction so we would be prepared. It was the third symphony by Armenian composer Avet Terterian. Two soloists played small wooden instruments called duduks. The piece started with total silence for a good few moments which was surprisingly moving; do we ever hear total silence? This was suddenly broken by the drums. I noticed some of the orchestra had ear plugs and a lady up in the choir seats kept her ears covered the whole time. The duduks, far from being overwhelmed by the orchestra, played piercing notes that took you back to ancient lands. There were other periods of silence and sweet lyrical parts. I could not describe the symphony, but I loved it. There was rapturous applause at the end; it had been an experience.