Archive for August 22nd, 2011

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Moon Horse vs the Mars Men from Jupiter

Monday, 22 August, 2011

Cartoon style adventures

Edinburgh – Buff’s Club RAOB V42– 6-20 August—17:00 (1:00)

MJ Hibbert and Steve Hewitt

Moon Horse versus the Mars men from Jupiter is a two-man brain splurge, the episodic cartoonish adventure of a purple stuffed horse head on a stick and Steve Hewitt in an aviator’s hat as Geoffrey Livingstone.  We discover the history of Moon Horse and Livingstone’s partnership—they met on the moon after Geoffrey was shot into space in a gun from a research base in Shanklin on the Isle of White.  This leads to the disturbance of US and UK relations as the UK had technically won the space race.   Now, Moon Horse, Livingstone and the depressed and un-noticed TIDDY (total intergalactic droid of death) scare away the smelly Mars men on numerous occasions and eventually save the world from privatisation and mankind from eviction from the planet Earth.

The performers have no pretensions to be anything other than what they are—amateur comedians with a lot of heart.  The tone is set immediately with Mark Hibbett’s casual ‘I’ll do the intros then shall I Steve?’  Still there are some gems in this show.  Especially noteworthy are the condemning of Maggie Thatcher to Prime minister’s heaven (her idea of hell), where all are equal and live in socialist bliss and the killer line ‘we’re a two mammal six legged fighting machine.’

While the slap-dash and intentionally pathetic costumes and guitar skills of Mark Hibbett lose their initial charm by the end, the hour is mostly joyful.  From Lyndon Baines Johnson in a pink cowboy hat, to martians in fluorescent woolly hats—you name the puerile joke, these guys will have it in their show.  We even witness the ‘literally’ diabolical acts of satan himself, who Moon Horse defies by ensuring that Birmingham New Street Station is sent to Hell for the Mephistopheles to enjoy.

Mark Hibbett is especially flexible as a performer.  His accents and his improvised one-liners give the show an energy boost.  Both he and his co-performer are very likeable, even though their show really is just tomfoolery.  Their last song sums up their artistic attitude ‘we were much to busy having fun to notice no one cared.’

The main problem with this show is it feels like a series of youtube worthy gags and songs, drawn out into an hour-long set, and by just over the halfway point things are wearing a little thin.  Thank the Lord for the distracting background noises from other rooms—these absent heckles (a woman screaming for what seems like an eternity) are dealt with excellently by both Steve and Mark, who do have a sense of comic timing and play.  For the last ten minutes however, one really wishes the duo would stop flogging a dead Moon Horse.

Cast: Steve Hewitt—Geoffrey Livingstone,  Mars Man, Lyndon Baines Jonson, Harold Wilson. Mark Hibbett—Satan, Margaret Thatcher, TIDDY, Harold Wilson, Mars Man, Professor Wilberforce.

Written, produced and directed by Steve Hewitt and Mark Hibbett

Reviewed- August 19th -Edinburgh

(c) Rebecca Gibson 2011

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Hide and Seek, at Edinburgh Fringe

Monday, 22 August, 2011

Well-observed Masked Movement Theatre

Edinburgh ’11-Church Hill Theatre – Studio- 8,10,11,13 Aug at 21:25

Hide and Seek is an hour long movement play developed by the students of Niles North Advanced Theatre Studio class. It is constructed by juxtaposing a variety of short, independent scenes which would function equally well as comic cabaret pieces. Some of the scenes happen in the Doctor’s Waiting Room, others in the Gym, the Park, or At Home. Between scenes, changes are simple, signalled by a pleadingly played, card carrying character with a quizzical face. The cards made it clear which of these places we were visiting.

All the characters were wearing  extremely well designed, splendidly constructed, grotesque masks and appropriate 1950’s costumes.. The heads were all cartoon character large and frozen into particularly powerful expressions. All the character development and communication, therefore, had to be achieved with physical movement. When sounds were required they were either canned music or made by unmasked actors at microphones, set downstage left and right. Thus set, they could watch the action and accompany it with appropriate explosions of sound or subtle squeaks and moans, to great comic or serious effect.

The doctor was a particularly nasty piece of work, very domineering, repeatedly smacking his receptionist – nurse’s behind, which she felt forced to proffer with more and more resignation as the scenes unfolded. It is clear this doctor does not cure any of the five patients he sees in the course of the time we enter their lives.

The patient’s scenes are played out with the initial signing of insurance forms being VERY IMPORTANT to the doctor who rubs his hands with glee at each administrative success.

He is a heavy jawed, large fore-headed, Neanderthal with absolutely no bedside manner. She is a light- hearted, small boned Betty Boopish lady with a wide eyed pretty mask and dark hair tied up with a ribbon. She quite clearly has no power in the consulting room and is reluctantly injecting patients who promptly collapse and are dragged off into the wings, never to be seen again. The one who escapes is afraid of the needle and leaves as fast as he can drag himself away. All the patients have very sick looking faces of different kinds, pained, depressed, too thin etc. playing different degrees of willingness to be“ taken care of “. Gradually, especially in the later scenes, the nurse is seen to become more and more uncomfortable, trying to persuade the patients to leave before the doctor appears. .Mostly her ploys to save them from their fate fail miserably because the doctor is watching her like a hawk and arrives to make sure they are caught.

When she goes home the Lady has no better a time with her horridly abusive husband whom she attempts to please in many ways and always ends up being bullied or hit. The Postman we all fall in love with, as she does. He is a plain looking but charming man who kisses her hand and is very kind to her at every turn. He appears in a variety of scenes becoming more and more enchanted with her shy acceptance of his loving attentions. All of the action requires the five person cast to use great movement control and physically subtle timing, to bring nuances to the relationships, which could have been trapped inside the constraints of the large, full head masks. Instead, it was as if the actors were freed by the discipline dictated by each mask, finding a way to make the acting stream through their gestures and emanate from their moving bodies. We feel for the characters as well as laugh with them.

In the gym the Doctor and the local Pretty Boy, who looks a bit like a well known cowboy movie star, compete to walk faster on the treadmill, lift heavier weights etc. to beat one another and impress The Lady, who has already made a play for the muscle-man and failed to impress him because he is married. To let us know this he shows her his ring. Off and on the Gym features, as does the Park where two older couples eventually swap partners to match their sense of humour and interests and the Postman meets and woos the Lady. Sometimes she is played by a man and sometimes by a woman, which is quite difficult to spot, since they have each mastered the movements required to bring the masks character to life.

Through a variety of short scenes elegantly pieced together and a lot of very entertaining, expressive movement exchanges, we become truly interested in the characters and the story of the young woman, the patients and the doctor, who is selling donor organs for vast profit. The comic enjoyment of the gory plot is handled very well and all the killings happen off stage, as in ancient Greek Drama, where large masks were also used on a regular basis in many plays. Ultimately the doctor is hoist by his own petard and his mask appears in the organ donor box. There is a happily ever after ending which delighted everyone and the whole experience is a very satisfying combination of plot and players telling their story with great clarity and beauty.

Cast Credits: ( alpha order ) Jonathan Berg-Einhorn – Actor  Will Boersma – Actor.  Dylan Connelley– Actor.  Martin Hanna – Actor  Sophie Scanlon– Actress

Company Credits: Writer – The Company devised the scenes for twenty-four masked characters

Director – Timothy Ortmann.  Sound – Alan Stotter.  Technical Director – Annaliisa Ahlman , Mask Designer and Maker – David Knezz,  Lighting Design – Daniel Friedman

© Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2011

reviewed Wednesday 190h August 011/ Church Hill Theatre / Edinburgh UK

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Babylon Circus: Energy

Monday, 22 August, 2011

An Interview with Babylon Circus.

Boomtown Fair – Main Stage – 14th Aug – 22.30

Babylon Circus

Many of the other bands playing at Boomtown fair look up to Babylon Circus, and after watching them play the headlining slot on the main stage on saturday night, it is clear why.  They drew a large crowd who were instructed to jump and shout by Manuel Nectoux, a small man who is hard to ignore.  The performance was full of energy and flair, much aided by his incredible dance moves.

What do we need to know about Babylon Circus?

We’ve been around for over fifteen years.  We are modern troubadours. Curious frenchies who decided to travel, carrying their stories to tell and sing as loud as possible, the best way to get in touch with the world!  Our music is the result of a mix with rock, reggae, French folk song and Balkan sounds.  Nine people, nine influences, make Babylon Circus’ style sound unique!

How and why is your new album ‘ La Belle Étoile’ different to the others?

Because we are in a perpetual research, we need to develop and feed our music every day to make it unique and personal.  This one has deeper emotional feelings and is less ‘intellectual’.  If we’d be gamblers, you could say that we do ‘all in’ at each hand!

You are known for your energy.  Where do you get it from?

We keep the faith in what we do, in what we want to give. Every night is a new meeting, as if it was the first time, and that can even be the last, who knows? That’s why we save the day, and give everything we’ve got in our hearts. It may also come from the way we work, mixing theatre and circus with pure rock’n’roll energy.

How does a British crowd compare to other crowds from around the world?

I never felt the British crowd shyer than another. Every crowd is differnt, even in the same country.  And that’s a good thing!  It’s up to us to find the way to make each one go crazy. And there’s always a way.  Do you want to know how were the Syrian people during the beginning of the Iraq war?  We were there for one month, and that made us understand that we should never trust the mass media!  People were really nice.  That’s why we played a concert for two hours with several local guests, feeling the happiness in the crowd, despite how hard is their life!

Why are you returning to Boomtown, having played in 2009?

How could we refuse an invitation, when the first meeting was so fun! I remember a very mixed audience , with several generations and origins,  and different artistic disciplines on the same site.

Tell us about your plans for the coming year.  Are you playing any other festivals?

Actually, we are working hard on the next album, which should be released in the beginning of 2012.  But, we’re also still touring, cause it is kind of hard drug!  We are musical conquerors, always on the road!!!

What advice would you give to a new band starting up?

It’s hard to say, because there are no exact rules.  The most important thing is to keep on dreaming, and work on to live your dreams!

Band members:  Manuel Nectoux – vocals.  David Burachel – vocals and guitar.  Emmanuel Héron – bass.  Olivier Soumali – keyboard.  Georges Chaccour – guitar.  Christophe Millot – saxophone, clarinet, accordion and flute.  Clement Amirault – trombone, tuba and barrel organ.  Yannick Urbani – drums.  Valentin Meylan – trumpet. Manager: Kevin Lamalle.

(c) Claire Higgins 2011

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First Degree Burns at Boomtown

Monday, 22 August, 2011

Boomtown Fair – Invisible Circus Tent – 14th Aug – 20:00 (1.00)

First Degree Burns  always give it their all, and Sunday’s performance at Boomtown was no different.

Glitter, feathers and top hats jostled for space amongst eight perfomers and their array of instruments.  Not to mention the space taken up by their huge egos.  They have talked about the quandry of accomodating eight big personalities off stage, but on it, the result is a big sound and a high energy performance.

Their sound, which they refer to as ‘Skip-hop’ has become a symbol of the Bristol festival scene, and many of the tracks from their first album, called ‘This is Skip-hop’ were played, to the delight of a crowd largely made up of people alread converted to an eclectic new genre, a mixture of dub, hip-hop, ska and reggae.  The resulting sound of a blend of many styles within one tune is surprisingly uncomplicated, and many could not help singing along with the clear, catchy lyrics, or bouncing along to the dub beats.   At regular intervals throughout the perfomance the crowd was treated to some coherent, fast rapping from J, and big brass sounds.  Changing paces within each tune regularly whipped the crowd into a frenzy.

Perhaps their popularity stemmed from the universal themes addressed within the music, the crowd empathising with ‘Every day you try to make the best choice’ and ‘I wonder why you went away?’   The latter opened with a clashing, tin pan sound and ska style syncopated rhythm, leading to a faster instrumental section which reflects the fury of unfinished business.  Incorporating  humour, both with words and without,  ‘Who dem guys?’  came across as a brash, self assured rhetorical question, as they stated, with a pinch of irony, that   ‘FDB (are) teaching you the truth’.  Then they mixed the instantly recognisable ‘No Limit’ melody with ska style,  almost sinister  ‘ghost town’ undertones.  But it was not all hedonistic pleasure in the First Degree Burns camp, as  ‘Who are them?’ reminded all that they are just young guys with a strong social conscience, using this arena to make their political voice heard.

Playing to a packed tent, they kept the full attention of themajority within, dancing on stage, unperturbed by some imbalances in the sound quality.  Playing with unwavering passion, confidence and humour, they clearly loved every minute of it, declaring ‘If I could marry music then you’d truly be my first wife’.   At times it was hard to work out who was having more fun, the crowd or the band, although as they finished to the sound of loud cheers, it had to be close.  Many people left still dancing, and most were smiling.

First Degree Burns are hoping to break past the Bristol barrier, as they are very happy with the current crew and the sounds they produce.  Never forgetting where they came from, and clearly ‘Proud to be part of the Bristol family’,  if they are so well received in Winchester, they are probably going to make it elsewhere.

Ben Baikovitch-Fisher – Drums; Sam Baikovitch-Fisher – Vocals/Clarinet; George Shipley – Bass; Jalon Fearon-Zbijowski – Vocals; John-Henry Harris – Sax; Alistair Hall – Keys; Michael Burrows – Guitar; Adam Mcloughlin – Sax

(c) Claire Higgins 2011

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First Degree Burns Interview: This is Skip hop.

Monday, 22 August, 2011

Boomtown Fair – Invisible Circus Tent – 14th Aug – 17:00

Tell us about First Degree Burns

Ben:  We’re each pretty busy individually, I have various jobs.  I’ve got four jobs at the minute, not all music related, but I’m in four bands too.  I can’t get enough of it!

John:  I’ve come over from Denmark.   I work for Lego as a designer. I’ve been in the band for six or seven years, and I’m so lucky that we are all best buddies.  If you want to be in FDB it’s not about your musical ability, it’s about how well you fit in with the boys.  If you can’t deal with the unnecessary homo-erotic banter, well, there’s a lot of that.

Adam:  We’re the infantry, they’re the cavalry.  I got a Young Talent award when I was about 16, and I got a grant to enable me to get instruments, and make music, and very fortunately I’m currently  working  with these guys.   I play a lot of jazz,  I’m really more of a jazz guy, that’s why I love these guys.   I really love hip-hop too.  I’m about to go to Uni, and hopefully I’ll stay with these guys.  I get along with these guys so well.

George:  We don’t make any money out of the music that we do.  It gets reinvested.  That’s always been a policy.  So none of us has ever made much, nor had to spend much money.  The more music we do, the better we do… it’s a self propelling machine, or an animal!

Ben:  We’d only be doing it if we really loved the music and really saw our band grow.  We develop our fan base every year.  Now we’re at a point where if we push it, we can try to take it a little bit further than we ever have before.  We’re playing a lot more London gigs now.  We’re not lazy, there are just a lot of us to organise!

George:  Join us on facebook.  The album ‘This is Skip-hop’ is available on i-tunes.

How did it all begin?

Ben:  It all started twelve or thirteen years ago, as brothers jamming in the bedroom.  Then we got George  involved on the bass.

George:  Back then we were a three piece ska, punk, hip-hop band.  Back in the days of Limp Biscuit, it was heavy metal with rapping, we’d have hip hop verses and screaming,  really heavy metal choruses.  We wanted to go a bit more down the hip-hop side of things so one Summer Ben borrowed a multi-track recorder from college, his parents went away for a month, and we set that up, had loads of mates around,  spent a month or so partying, and recorded this album with all our friends.  Then  we grew into what is now First Degree Burns.  We had two MCs at that point, a DJ, bass guitar, drums.   It was quite hip-hop based.  Then a horn section came in a few years after that.

John:  We were inspired by bands like Babyhead, Cat Empire, Babylon Circus.

Ben:  Over the years people have come and gone and everything has evolved each time someone’s left the band and someone else has joined.  Wilf quit in 2003, he was an MC, and he decided one day he couldn’t do it anymore, which was cool, but we were a little bit stuck for a while.  Sam, the other vocalist, was doing it all by himself.  The issue at the time was that we didn’t do anything too melodic because Wilf couldn’t sing.  He was a really good rapper but when he left it suddenly meant we could experiment with that a bit more.  That’s when Jalon joined, which brought the Jamaican influence.   The ragga, and he could sing as well.  That brought out Sam’s singing ability and he developed over the years.   So we can do melody now, and we became more willing to experiment with other forms.

Jalon:  We became less rap/ hip-hop and more ska/ melodic.

Any plans to branch out from Bristol?

Ben:  We’re all based in Bristol, and it’s hard to get eight people away from work and to London.  And the guys we had before would admit that to a degree they were holding us back, due to other commitments.

George:  Our sound is very unique.  Even if you didn’t like the music, we demand people’s attention.  We struggle to get out of Bristol because we struggle to define ourselves with a genre for marketing.

We don’t want to be one of those bands where every song sounds the same.

Jalon:   No big promoters want to know because it’s a very different sound to cubby hole.  In Bristol it’s a really natural thing for bands to bend and blend genres.   That just doesn’t happen so much in the rest of the UK.

George:  How do you describe it?  We’ve got cheesy reggae, we’ve got dark hip-hop, we’ve got dub, every song is unique.  That’s what is so great, that we try to keep the spice of music alive.

Jalon:  Has anyone said eclectic fusion yet?

Ben:  We tried to sum it up in one word, and we’re toying with the idea of calling ourselves ‘Skip-hop’.

John:  We’ve got a sound, we don’t need to find it,  it’s just getting other people to recognise it.

We’ve got a lot of contacts in London, we’ve just never used them.  But now we’re talking with a manager to find out what it is we need to do.  He gave us some tips, and we’ve done it.  Last year we put together this amazing music video for ‘Who dem guys?’.   It was tremendous fun and gave us the image that we’re a bunch of bad boys.  Glitter covered bad boys!

George:  We’ve just come back from  gigs in Germany.  We played a festival in an old Russian airfield where all the stages were aircraft hangers.  We played the circus area and we killed it there.  It’s knowing that our sound transcends any nation.  So the next plan is to get all our promo and marketing materials done.

Jalon:  And try to organise a big tour for next year.

What brings you to Boomtown?

Ben:  Boomtown is our home, with our home crowd.  The Invisible Circus is a Bristol events team, they’re great and they’re friends of ours.  We know James and Chris, two of the main organisers.  They used to run Clockwork in Bristol, and Lab.

George:  We played at one of their very first festivals and we’ve seen it grow, blossom, from those early days into what it is now.  It’s great to see local guys growing something through hard work.  And now we’ve seen the benefits of an amazing festival where you’ve got international bands and bands from all over the UK.  It’s great to have been invited back again and again.

John:  Last year we played on the main stage.  It was raining all of Friday and Friday night, until midday on Saturday.  We came onto The Arcadia stage.  As soon as we started singing the sun came out.  It was one of the best gigs we’ve ever done.  Our home crowd, people knowing the words, coming up to us and saying ‘we were listening to your CD on the way’.  We got three or four encores, it was incredible.

Where do you get your energy from?

Ben:  There’s something about being on stage.

Adam:  We get energy from the crowd and from each other.

Jalon:   Also, we argue like hell.  There’s a lot of aggro and tension, with eight massive egos, so it’s better to take the anger out on the music than to hit each other in the face!

John:  And we absolutely love it.  No-one’s making us do that, we’re doing what we’ve created and what we love.  And we love each other.  We love getting involved the festival vibe, so if to get to do that with your mates, there’s nothing better.

Jalon:  And the inability to think of a better job.

Any advice for up and coming bands?

George:  Glitter!

Ben:  If you don’t get on with each other, it doesn’t last and it’s not enjoyable.

John:  So find bandmates which gel with your style.

J:  That might involve some rigid initiation.  If you live through it, you’ve probably got longevity.

Adam:  If you’re passionate about it don’t let little things get on top of you.

Ben:  Yeah, there was a point last Summer when our guitarist left after ten years.  The month before we’d lost our trombone player , then Martin left after playing with us for ten years.

George:  And we had this horrible night of crying and drowning our sorrows, thinking ‘how am I ever going to chat up girls again?’

Adam:  But you’ve got to be patient.  Music is not just about getting trashed and chatting up girls. A lot of time goes on behind the scenes.   It’s not an overnight thing.  You’ve got to work.

John:  But don’t take it too seriously, and have fun.

Jalon:  Take the piss out of each other, and remember the heirarchy!

Band members:  Ben Baikovitch-Fisher – Drums; Sam Baikovitch-Fisher – Vocals/Clarinet; George Shipley – Bass; Jalon Fearon-Zbijowski – Vocals; John-Henry Harris – Sax; Alistair Hall – Keys; Michael Burrows – Guitar; Adam Mcloughlin – Sax

(c) Claire Higgins, 2011