Sunday, 12 February 2017

New Teeth4 - Bastard Assignments

Josh Spears and Timothy Cape in Timothy Cape's 'Wildflower'
Josh Spears and Timothy Cape in
Timothy Cape's Wildflower
New Teeth 4; Bastard Assignments; Hackney Showrooms
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Feb 10 2017
Star rating: 4.0

From the bizarre to the wonderful, another one of Bastard Assignments evenings of cross-arts performance

The composers collective Bastard Assignments has been presenting a season of cross-arts performances across London under the intriguing title New Teeth. On Friday 10 February 2017 I caught up the final event, New Teeth 4, in the theatre at Hackney Showroom. The group's regular line-up of composers Timothy Cape, Edward Henderson, Caitlin Rowley and Josh Spear (who performed their own work as well as performing that of others), were joined by guests Ludwig Abraham, Andy Ingamells and Sharon Gal, cellist Sarah James and Impermanence Dance Theatre (Eleanor Perry, Danny Hay Gordon, Patricia Langa and Ale Marzotto Levi).

There were eight pieces, Ludwig Abraham's Tykes, Timothy Cape's Wildflower, Caitlin Rowley's Paper, Josh Spear's Extended Play, a set by Sharon Gal, Andy Ingamells and Maya Verlaak's Tape Piece and Andy Ingamells' Solo and He that plays the English Gentleman shall be welcome, with the evening concluding with a set by Impermanence Dance Theatre. Apart from the dance at the end, all the pieces involved an element of performance and many evinced a fascination with using non-traditional objects as sound sources.

Edward Henderson & Andy Ingamells in Andy Ingamells & Maya Verlaak's Tape Piece
Edward Henderson & Andy Ingamells
in Andy Ingamells & Maya Verlaak's Tape Piece
We opened with Ludwig Abraham's Tykes (performed by Ludwig Abraham), which began with a series of instructions to the audience before Abraham's started to receive instructions himself from a disembodied voice, mainly about learning hip-hop. It was an intriguing piece which finished as suddenly as it started.

Timothy Cape's Wildflower (performed by Timothy Cape, Caitlin Rowley and Josh Spear) continued his fascination with orchestrating sounds of natural objects, which we have experienced to memorable effect in previous Bastard Assignments events. Wildflower started with two film sequences, first a random selection of object (glass and plastic bottles, empty containers etc) which were made to resonate by a steady stream of water from a hose-pipe, this was followed by a wind-chime arranged from random objects at the sea side with the clinking sounds backed by the rush of the sea. The final sequence was Timothy Cape, Caitlin Rowley and Josh Spear re-creating the sounds from the final sequence (thankfully we did not have the danger of getting wet in a recreation of the first film sequence), so there were clinking bottles, cans and others backed by white noise from the radio hiss. The results were surprisingly evocative, subtle and complex, with a remarkable range of timbres.

This fascination with the timbre of natural objects continued with Caitlin Rowley's piece Paper, but with a difference. In the past I have heard Rowley working live with paper and card to produce a range of subtle complex sounds. For Paper we saw her working with paper, card and a variety of objects, but the sounds were all produced by cellist Sarah James, combining pitched and unpitched sounds, and a variety of extended techniques. There were some magical moments, but some unsupportable ones too, particularly the unbearable sound levels when the film showed paper being cut.

Josh Spear in his Extended Play
Josh Spear in his Extended Play
The final piece in the first half was Josh Spear's Extended Play in which Josh Spear, Edward Henderson, Timothy Cape and Caitlin Rowley mimed to a compilation tape, the sounds moved from comic Jack Benny, through a couple of rock songs to dialogue intercut to create rather comic moments. The performers lip-synched to the dialogue and mimed during the musical moments, an impressive technical feat and a highly entertaining one too, with Spear at one point playing the saxophone live.

After the interval Sharon Gal did a set, she combined vocalism with electronic music backing and had a light which projected her shadow onto the wall. Gal's vocalism was all extended techniques, though there were times when she evoked someone choking or snoring. The results were technically impressive but rather disturbing too.

Next came Andy Ingamells and Maya Verlaak's Tape Piece performed by Edward Henderson and Andy Ingamells. When described Tape Piece sounds rather idiotic, the two men wrestled with each other and wrapped themselves in Sellotape, and then ripped it off each other again. But the sounds thus created were striking and rather wonderful.

Ingamells then performed his Solo in which he sat on the floor with a Swanee whistle and above him was projected a (silent) film also of Ingamells. I associate Swanee whistles mainly with the children's TV series The Clangers, and Ingamells did something similar with his Swanee whistle replacing the soundtrack of the film. Intriguing at first and then something a bit more as we realised that the Andy Ingamells on film (seen only from the waist up) was masturbating and the Swanee whistle producing a sound-track to that. A neat idea, but one which went on a bit too long.

Sarah James in Caitlin Rowley's 'Paper'
Sarah James in Caitlin Rowley's Paper
Ingamells final piece He that plays the English Gentleman shall be welcome was perhaps the most self-indulgent of the evening. Ingamells dressed in cricket whites and pads (and put on glasses) and then encouraged members of the audience to throw tomatoes at him which he batted away with a violin. Shy of doing so at first, the audience gradually warmed to the idea and Ingamells was certainly successful at avoiding the tomatoes. Then the audience had work to do, there were letters hidden in the tomatoes and the audience had to find them and assemble them to spell the name of the piece.

Finally we had a set from Impermanence Dance Theatre. The first two items featured an extended solos for Danny Hay Gordon and Ale Marzotto Levi, both disco numbers where the work did not follow a conventional trajectory and soloists rather went to pieces. These two pieces were followed by a rather intense piece for the two women, something rather abstract and not a little sexual.

The theatre at Hackney Showrooms is a large flexible space, and most of the performances took place on the stage area (played half-way along the long wall) with the audience clustered casually round sitting on chairs. At previous Bastard Assignments events there has been no formal seating, people simply stood, squatted or sat on the floor with the events taking place around them. This somehow made the performances immediate, By using the stage so much and having chairs, the evening seemed tamer than before.

But there was certainly no shortage of intriguing ideas. The event was the last of Bastard Assignments current series, let us hope they are able to give us a further series.

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