MIF – Concert in the dark and Doctor Who
There are only 2 days left until the start of the biennial Manchester International Festival. It promises to present “new works from across the spectrum of performing arts, visual arts and popular culture” and celebrates Manchester’s “pivotal role in music, culture, innovation and the arts”.
It sounds exactly like the kind of thing I should love, so why then do I feel ambivalent? From the 30th June to 17th July Manchester will host 26 world premiers or special events, 10 of which are free, but in reality there are only 2 events that have my attention – and I’m unlikely to attend either of them.
Before you read on you should check out the website and programme for yourself. More than 200,000 people visited the inaugural Festival in 2007 and around 230,000 people attended in 2009 – It’s a popular event and there are lots of big names performing so don’t let my lack of enthusiasm deter you.
The first event that appeals to me is Amadou & Mariam’s Eclipse, showing between 14th and 16th July at New Century Hall.
I have never listened to the music of “Malian musical superstars” Amadou & Mariam. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before the festival. They have 6 albums under their belts, including the track “All I Believe in” from the The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack. (I haven’t actually verified that snippet of trivia – blame Wikipedia if it’s not true). They are very well known apparently, just not by me.
I have no idea what to expect from their music but the concept behind these performances has me intrigued. You see, they will be performing 6 intimate concerts entirely in the dark to create an “unforgettable sensory experience”.
Amadou & Mariam, who met in the orchestra of The Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako, have been married for 25 years. When asked about the concerts Amadou Bagayoko said:
“If you cannot see, your sense of sound becomes richer. You appreciate the qualities of sound. That’s one reason I wanted to have a series of concerts in the darkness. I wanted the audiences to try to hear the music just as Mariam and I hear it.”
The problem is, what if I hate their music? It seems like a lot of money to spend on a whim if it turns out to be 90 minutes of torture. On the other hand, they could be (and probably are) exceptional, unforgettable, or at the very least entertaining.
A friend suggested I should buy an album and listen to it with the curtains closed, thus saving myself a lot of money. He’s got a point, but the environment in which you experience the music, the excitement of knowing it’s live, hearing the music reverberate around you and feeling the room vibrate, is always going to be an entirely different experience to sitting in your front room, even if you do have a great sound system. I loved The Blue Man Group, for example, when we watched them nervously from the sixth row in Vegas, but I wouldn’t listen to them through my iPod.
I have to ask myself – Do I have £27.50 worth of curiosity? (or rather £55 worth of curiosity – as I don’t plan to go alone). As yet I’m still undecided.
Are you familiar with Amadou & Mariam’s music? Will you be going to hear them during the festival? I’d love to hear other people’s feedback to spur me into making a decision either way.
The second event I want to write about – the one I would be positively giddy about if I could actually go, is Doctor Who: The Crash of the Elysium. Yes, I am a total geek.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had the inside scoop on this particular show. I know someone working on the set. They are, and subsequently I am, sworn to absolute secrecy. My lips are sealed. I don’t like spoilers but if you want to get a feel for what to expect I recommend you read Lyn Gardner’s article for the Guardian here.
I called it a show, but it isn’t really is it? It’s an interactive adventure in which you have one terrifying hour to save world.
Doctor Who: The Crash of the Elysium is a new work created by immersive theatre specialists Punchdrunk, which tend to leave their audiences / participants, babbling excitedly for days (or weeks) afterwards.
Their 2009 MIF show, “It Felt Like a Kiss” was a nightmarish, walk-through experience about America’s 1960s colonisations of far-flung parts of the globe. When a friend described her (traumatic sounding) experience of the show I kicked myself for not going too.
In this year’s Doctor Who however, it is the children who will have to don biohazard suits to save the world. That’s the kicker: I cannot go because adults are only allowed in if they are accompanying a child aged between 6 and 12 years old. I’m not above child-borrowing but no-one has volunteered yet.
Are you familiar with the works of Punchdrunk? Did you go to “It Felt Like a Kiss”? Can I borrow your children? (Kidding!)
Seriously though, are you planning to go to any of the events during the festival?
Which other shows would you recommend?