Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Vertical Line and Strange Poetry



The Vertical Line (1999)
-This site specific production was produced in association with the English arts council, funded by national lottery money as part of an 'inner city art project' and ran for four days.

-Theatre de Complicite worked with John Berger on this project which was commissioned by ARTANGEL.

-The 'Vertical Line' of the title, refers to a vertical line downwards through time.

-McBurney, Berger and Sandra Voe (actress) took the audience on a journey 30,000 years into the past.

-This work has been described as an 'installation', it was based 30 metres below London and took place in the disused Strand Station and the disused tube line surrounding it. The audience were then transported to the scene of a cave around 30,000 years ago using multimedia devices.

- The cave in question is a cave in Ardèche where cave paintings where discovered in 1994 by Jean-Marie Chauvet.
- "Time was abolished, as if the tens of thousands of years of separation no longer existed. We were not alone, the painters were here too. We thought we could feel their presence. We were disturbing them..." (Jean Marie-Chauvet on discovering the cave.)


-"Cued by the lure of sound and light, each visitor explored the station's deep walkways, tracks and tunnels: the intervention of video portraits etched by light onto lift shaft walls; mattresses still strewn on platforms uninhabited since the Blitz; painted animals on the rock - unseen yet glistening." -Michael Morris Co-director, Artangel.

-"Part theatrical event, part archaeological dig, the Vertical Line was an oratorio of faces, voices, darkness, and light: a one-off excavation for small groups down 122 spiral steps into the bowels of the disused Strand tube station, where a sequence of audio-visual installations culminated in a live performance on seven occasions."
(Michael Morris 1999, "Introduction" in The Vertical Line, John Berger and Simon McBurney CD Artangel, Theatre de Complicite and Somethin' Else, London)

(This CD, describing the experience of 'The Vertical Line' is available in Founder's Library.)

Strange Poetry (2004)
-Described as 'a journey to create a 'silence' or a 'space' to allow another kind of listening. Risk and the chemistry of dreams. That is what this collaboration is about'.(McBurney)

-This was a collaboration with the L.A Philharmonic orchestra, creating an 'event' based on Berlioz's 'Symphonie Fantastique', which could be described as a theatrical concert.

-In preparation McBurney worked with Trinity College Symphony Orchestra to develop ideas of staging Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique that might encourage the audience to listen differently without distracting from the musical performance.


- The Symphony
Was musical embodiment of the supreme love of Berlioz's life, Harriet
Smithson. Berlioz found a way to channel the enormous emotion of being a young musician in love, with an unattainable woman. It has been described as one of the seminal works of Romanticism.

The plot of the symphony can be divided into five sections and is described below.

I. Reveries
A young musician,sees the woman of his dreams and falls hopelessly in love. Each time her image comes into his mind, it evokes a musical thought(shown by an idée fixe) that is impassioned in

character, but also noble and shy, as he imagines her to be.

II. A Ball
The artist finds himself in the swirl of a party, but the beloved image appears before him and troubles his soul.

III. Scene in the Country
In the distance, two shepherds play a ranz des vaches in dialogue [solo oboe and English horn]. The pastoral setting, the gentle evening breeze, the hopeful feelings he has begun to have--all conspire to bring to his spirit an unaccustomed calm, and his thoughts take on a more cheerful cast. He hopes not

to be lonely much longer. But his happiness is disturbed by dark premonitions. What if she is deceiving him! One of the shepherds resumes his playing, but the other makes no response.... In the distance, thunder. Solitude. Silence.

IV. March to the Scaffold.
Convinced that his love is unrequited, the artist takes an overdose of opium. It plunges him into a sleep accompanied by horrifying visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, has been condemned and led to the scaffold, and is witnessing his own execution. The procession advances to a march that is now somber and savage, now brilliant and solemn. At its conclusion the idée fixe returns, like a final thought of the beloved cut, off by the fatal blow.

V. Dream of a Witches' Sabbath
He sees himself in the midst of a frightful throng of ghosts, witches, monsters of every kind, who have assembled for his funeral. Strange noises, groans, bursts of laughter, distant cries. The beloved melody again reappears, but it has lost its modesty and nobilty; it is no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque; it is she, coming to the sabbath. A joyous roar greets her arrival.... She joins in the devilish orgy.... A funeral knell, a parody of the Dies irae. A sabbath round-dance. The Dies irae and the round-dance are combined.

-The Source of the Title
French writer Charles Nodier (1780 - 1844) described romanticism as 'strange poetry...The last resort of the human heart, tired of ordinary feelings, is what is called the 'romantic' genre...' When listening to the Symphonie Fantastique, it became clear to us that we were in the presence of strange poetry. Every turn is unexpected: the unbearably tender is superceded by the shockingly brutal, the most subtle of harmonic lines followed with splashings of broad orchestral colour. It quite simply announces something new. And, it seemed to us, Berlioz stood not only on the verge of the modern age, but, like a prophet, saw far beyond it. (Mc Burney)

-The Production
Was a mix of spoken voice, orchestral score, and visual images (lighting and projected images invoking the era of Berlioz). The music was played live by the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, with large sections being played from memory, which added risk and originality to the performance.

RESEARCH BY -Catherine, Natalie, Kasia and Tom.


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