Arts Review: Apologetics
Barbican Pit Theatre
IN A NUTSHELL
Performance demonstrates the essential combination of music, dance, film and lighting to Michael Picknett's compositions.
By his own admission, Michael Picknett's music can "fall between the gaps of what people are willing to listen to".
And it's true, I won't be logging onto iTunes to download Apologetics, The Carter Piece or Ne Pleure Pas Alfred to enjoy on my commute.
But such criticisms of his music somewhat miss the point. These are not works that are designed for that sort of listening, they are created by and are for performance.
This concert was not, in the traditonal sense, a musical recital of Picknett's works but instead a blend of sound, dance, theatre, film and light. It is that which he creates.
To take any of these elements away would be seriously detrimental to the final product and so it was a blow to learn one of his musicians was too ill to play her part in Apologetics.
Normally, a stand-in would be quite acceptable, but as Picknett's pieces are created through imrpovisation with each of his performers, this presented quite an obstacle. Nevertheless, the show went on, albeit a different one to that intended.
First, we were treated to a percussian duet. If you'd told me that I'd actually enjoy a performer hitting, slapping, scraping and crushing a baked bean can while madly reciting lyrics before I'd been to this performance I'd have looked at you in a strange way and made my escape pretty swiftly.
As it was, the spectacle of Sam Wilson attacking the little silver tin was curiously seductive and the performance became even more so when he was joined on more conventinal instruments by Claire Sadler.
The two ran through a series of tones and rhythms before Sam returned to the floor to beat up a set of cymbals with his back to the audience, achieving the speed and delicacy of a threshing machine in full flight.
After this, Apologetics began with The Carter Piece.
Jennifer Carter's piano produced stark, booming sounds that seemed perfectly in keeping with her stupendously spiky heels.
In turn, the sounds seemed to electrify three dancers who kept the eye entertained while we watched a life-sized film projected onto the rear of the stage of harpist Fontane Liang, ever so slowly, dragging her instrument across a room and then, live, onto the stage.
The transitional phase came to an end and Liang and stand-in clarinettist Ralph Lane did an amirable job of trying to hammer out something similar to the piece originally created.
The dancers did their stuff, popping in and out of film as the performance went on, massaging the tired temples of the audience.
When it was all over, I was not filled with the euphoria of astonishing discovery. But I did have a warm smile on my face safe in the knowledge that somebody, at least, is breaking all the rules of genre and expectation.
- Apologetics is set to return to the Barbican in February. Go to michaelpicknett.com for more details