Sunday, August 17, 2008


Going Coco Nuts

It was relatively quiet day yesterday for the show, with just 130 visitors, this left time to think about how things should develop. We want to get a bit more focus on Climate Change related statistics, as this is a theme of this year’s Summer Festival at Kampnagel. We responded to some suggestions from visitors yesterday and next week will we will respond to more, including the fact that so far we have made no reference to either of the World Wars.

Over the next couple of days there are two personnel changes, Craig comes to replace me and Sarah replaces Chris. These fresh perspectives should take the show on in new directions and shares around the fun in Hamburg.

My last day in the City was marked by a cultural triathlon. Part one was a large Mark Rothko retrospective at the Kunsthalle. Seeing so many of his paintings together was a great chance to see how his ideas developed. In particular I was surprised to see that in his earliest paintings figures are regularly framed, mostly in windows and that this framing reappears strongly in his famous later abstract pieces. By selectively hanging historic landscape paintings beside some of Rothko’s paintings that stack horizontal blocks of colour the curator/s made me more comfortable with my brazen reading of all these abstract paintings as landscapes. By seeing so many Rothkos together it was also possible to explore which some are more satisfying than others. Most importantly this retrospective reaffirmed how powerful I find a great swathe of his work. Unfortunately it also confirmed that in comparison to the originals hanging a Rothko poster on your wall is almost entirely pointless.

Cultural Tirathlon Leg 2 was seeing The Nature Of Oklahoma’s Romeo and Juliette. This is at least the fourth time Stan’s Cafe have shared the bill with this company so it was great to finally meet the directors Paval and Kerry, all be it briefly. They are a company that’s generating considerable excitement and so it was great to see a second show of theirs. Long time Blog readers may recall the lukewarm response to Poetics, Romeo and Juliette hit the mark with much greater assurance. The premise is simple Paval and Kerry phoned lots of people and asked them to relate the story of Romeo and Juliette, these responses were recorded and stitched together into a script. The script is delivered by one male and one female performer, both dressed in cheap versions of ‘classic’ Shakespearian costumes (the male performer ends up resembling Max Wall). They alternate turns on a plyboard mock up of a traditional stage with footlights and the houselights stay on as, with great conviction and with wonderfully arch gesture and skewed English Actor accents, they deliver their hesitant, apologetic, miss remembered bawlderised version of the original text, complete with digressions.

For the most part the show really works. The central device is simple and strong. By taking genuine voices of confusion and doubt and giving them to the figures on stage they have found a great new spin on the rather tired ‘genre’ of performers at sea with their material and position on stage. Much of the show’s pleasure comes from constantly having the original context of the script hovering in your minds and enjoying the way this is being interpreted and appropriated on stage.

It is only close to the show’s end, when the monologue form is necessarily abandoned in favour of dialogue, that diverting from its central premise the show somehow falters and becomes less focused and satisfying. The show was commissioned by Kampnagel and this was just its third performance, I’d love to see the show further down the road to see how it has develops. Who knows, it may even come to Britain.

The triathlon’s final event was an evening with Señor Coconut and his Orchestra. Brian introduced us Señor Coconut a few years ago when his witty and perfectly pitched reinterpretations of classic Kraftwerk tracks as Latin dance numbers appeared as a triumph of ‘laptop in a bed-sit’ devotion. Now the format has expanded, he has a full live band, complete with a bass section, upright base, two sets of vibes and percussion. The show is fronted by an engaging Venezuelan singer, who may or may not have been called Coco (turns out he was Argenis Brito) and the repertoire now stretches to Michael Jackson, Sade, Eurythmics and even Deep Purple.

The whole evening is wonderfully playful. Señor Coconut stands suited, almost impassive behind his iBook centre stage and raised whilst beneath him the band dance and sway and joke and freak out on crazed solos. It is a great party and the fast the rhythm the better the dancing. As Brito says “Señor Coconut, he look serious, he always look serious, but ‘e is ‘appy” and so were we.


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