ARTYFACTS: Day 8 - Groupe F - Hell looks like fun

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Day 8 - Groupe F - Hell looks like fun

Groupe F: The Light Players
Groupe F played here in 2002 and I can still recall the huge fireballs and the smell, so was really looking forward to seeing how they've progressed. We're so used to seeing traditional firework displays that we're taken totally by surprise when they're used to do more than just accompany the 1812 Overture. Here they made up the Icarus wings of a flying, light figure, were propelled like bullets from a fireworks' gun, cartwheeled on a man's hat, pushed a rocket chariot and so on. Inventive though this was, it's the pyrotechnics that steal the show - huge flames that roar in response to a Satanic cello-like musical instrument. They also make the eye sweep right across the landscape and up and down - it's not a static experience. I was right at the front, and the sound, heat and light were intense (so was the soot that rained down on those who got too close). Lovely stuff.

They do try to break down the traditional series of firework displays with gaps between building to a grand finale by having people covered in bulbs act as anchors, but the show still stumbles along. More continuity would have been no bad thing. As it turns out they do rely on the traditional big bang at the end and the sky was one huge dome of glistening gold.

I tried to untangle the story which seemed to involve a countdown towards saving the planet. Television screens, a huge inflatable planet, eyeball projections (the French love projected eyeballs) and one magical moment when the projected image of a tree matched the lit trees of Preston Park. This use of the landscape was clever. The irony of burning hundreds of gallons of smoky fuel and thousands of fireworks to warn us about global warming seems a little odd - but who cares. It wasn't really about narrative, it was a spectacle. As Betjeman said when asked why he loved fireworks, " Why do I love fireworks? Because they're so unnecessary".

One odd thing were the hundreds of mobile phones being used as cameras - they were rather annoying, like those people who hold lighters up at rock concerts.

But if this is what a fiery hell's like, we're all going to have a lot of fun - you know who you are!

4 stars

Soweto Kinch - On Jazz Planet
Full house for a tasty cocktail of rap and jazz from this self taught rising star. Kicked off with a rap, opening up the show and the audience. This sort of blend could lead to a crossover from rap to jazz and vice versa. He moves effortlessly between the two, from saxaphone to rap vocals.

Weird watching jazz at 1 pm with the theater awash with sunshine. No time to get in the mood or drink enough to get into any sort of chilled mood. Sat next to a lovely guy, a painter, who happened to live in the next street. He was roughly my age (late 40s) and had got to Grade 4 saxophone in 18 months - that was impressive.

Guest vocalist and trumpet player Abram Wilson was a star in his own right and added some great vocals and trumpet solos. The drummer, Troy Miller, looked as though he was having the time of his life - the smile never left his face. Similarly with guitarist Femi Temowo and double bassist Michael Olatuja. Lots from the excellent, award winning CD Conversations With The Unseen as well as the new single 'Jazz Planet' which got the Brighton Audience into a rap chorus singalong " We're on a Jazz Planet, Jazz Planet". How often do you hear that at Jazz events?

The final number was an invitation to the audience to name three things for a little freeform rap and jazz. Mashed potato, owl and heaven came from the audience. Surreal choices but, he rapped them all in, rhyming Wako with mashed potato! Great finale.

4 stars

Streets of Brighton 2
One of the problems with street theatre in Brighton is telling the performers from the residents. Came away a bit ambivalent on this year's street stuff - some was plainly amateurish. But a big thumbs up to our local Varndean School Samba Band. They showed some of the professional performers a thing or two about keeping it tight and creating some buzz. Had a surrounding crowd seven or eight deep and sounded fantastic.

2 stars


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