First of all, the other half fancied a bit of high culture, so we moseyed over to the Empire to see the Welsh National Opera do Fidelio, one of a short season of three Germanic pieces and Beethoven’s only opera. Despite a beautiful (and beautifully performed) score, in the end our opinions were so split it was hard to see what the reality of the performance actually could have been (although this review in the Guardian reassures I’m not alone).
“I hated that set.”
“It’s set in a prison, it was supposed to be austere.”
“But the singers were hardly interacting with each other at all.”
“Because it’s German, not Italian.”
“Well, that didn’t work for me.”
“I thought it was done very well.”
“I don’t expect the set to wobble at the Empire.”
“I liked it.”
“You could tell that one was an understudy, though.”
Things were not helped by the surtitles, with the display stuck so high in the lighting rig those in the stalls had to continually take their eyes off the stage to follow the plot. The old man in front of me fell asleep. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
A few days later on the recommendation of the team at Homotopia, it was out to catch something else new, at the Unity. The Factory, by contemporary dance company Earthfall, is based on the 60s heyday of Warhol and chums, and proved to be an exciting, energetic and completely enthralling 70 minute show of music, dance and drama. There was a real air of anticipation about it too, as, arriving there in plenty of time, the majority of the audience were already queuing outside the auditorium doors to get in. There seemed to be a rare, but palpable buzz about this one, and it quickly proved to be rightly deserved.
Two musicians provided the Velvet Underground-esque soundtrack, as the five dancers played out as characters like Warhol, Edie Sedgwick, Jackie Curtis and Bob Dylan. It captured – and combined – the creativity, the hedonism and the politics of the era with gusto. At times, their frantic movements were so joyful it was hard not to want to join in. At others, the introduction of slower and more classical styles, like ballet and tap, marked more poignant episodes. Peppered with mysterious, yet not pretentious, poetry and sensual lyrics, the piece moved along taking in the shooting of Warhol, Sedgwick’s jealousy of the artist’s other muses, and in a brilliant climax, a take off of Bob Dylan’s iconic “cue cards”.
This was an engrossing and hugely entertaining work that transported the audience out of the Unity in a way I had never really experienced before. A beautifully balanced, sexy and effortlessly cool performance, The Factory can’t come recommended highly enough. So there you go. You learn new things every day. Here’s a taste of what Earthfall can do: