Wednesday 11 April 2018

Concrete Dreams

Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Concrete Dreams; Southbank Centre
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 10 Apr 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (★★★★)
An immersive experience and unusual journey celebrating the history of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Heywood Gallery

Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
The Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH), Purcell Room and Haywardd Gallery complex has been refurbished and renewed following a two year closure, very much devoted to rediscovering landmarks original Brutalist beauty. Both the Heywood and the QEH recently re-opened and as part of the festivities, there is an immersive exhibition, Concrete Dreams designed by the artists and performer collective KlangHaus and design practice LYN Atelier. This immersive journey explores the history of the hall, and it also allows the visitors a remarkably different view of the venues, taking them back-stage.

The tour starts in the gleaming QEH foyer, the marble floor glowing white and the light streaming in from the new windows, down the marble access staircase, one of the most striking parts of the old building and out past the concrete exterior - Brutalist perhaps but surprisingly subtle and detailed, 'a timber building cast in stone'.

Through the artists' entrance and up into the scenery dock life, the journey enlivened with stencilled quotations, copies of early documents and drawings, videos, projections and recordings, capturing the essence of the remarkable project. All this is the result of the mining of the extensive archives by KlangHaus. One corridor is papered with copies of the early architects' drawings and the sketches made by the builders (the architects' plans being too valuable to take on site).

Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
The final destination of the journey is a sequence of rooms, actually artists' dressing rooms and bathrooms, which are installed with an exploration of the first few years of Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery's existence. Much of the installation is constructed from wood from the old Queen Elizabeth Hall cloakroom, and the whole has a finely period feel.

Archives can be very dry things, but here the team has created a richly engaging experience. Videos play, as does an LP record, there are photos and documents from all areas of activity. I spied London Sinfonietta programmes and photos, along with a film of Jacqueline du Pre and Daniel Barenboim in Schubert's Trout Quintet, with headphones to allow you to listen quietly.

Another room deals with early Hayward Gallery shows, devoted to artists such as Bridget Riley, and a further room explores the recent restoration - who knew concrete samples could be so fascinating.

The end of the journey takes you out onto the Purcell Room stage, where the auditorium is turned into an installation. We sit and watch and listen as fragments of the complex's performance history are collaged into a striking whole complete with a live dancer interacting with the projections and the eclectic sound-track..

Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Southbank Centre: Concrete Dreams
Hourly tours take place until Sunday 29 April 2019 (tickets are free but should be booked in advance), ending in a special Concrete Dreams Weekend (27 to 29 April), with three days of performances by artists who share a history with the venues.
There is also a playlist on Spotify.

Full details from the Southbank Centre website.

The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Elsewhere on this blog:
  • Britten, Bernstein, Moore, Sutherland, Chagall, Piper - Walter Hussey & his commissions (★★★★)  - Book review
  • Shedding light on Claude le Jeune's psalm settings (★★★½) - CD review
  • Journey to Nidaros: Alexander Chapman Campbell (★★★) - CD review
  • Fantasies can be dangerous: Mark-Anthony Turnage's Coraline (★★★) - opera review
  • Competitive edge: Thomas Arne's The Judgement of Paris and arias from Handel's Semele  (★★★★) - opera review
  • Labour of love: a new musical direction at Finchcocks - interview
  • Spellbinding: Anna Netrebko and Željko Lucic in Verdi's Macbeth - Royal Opera House Live Cinema (★★★★) - opera review
  • From wronged women to pastoral delight: Handel's Italian cantatas at Wigmore Hall (★★★★) - concert review
  • Mr Handel's Vauxhall Pleasures at the London Handel Festival (★★★★½) - concert review
  • This brand-new production of Verdi’s Falstaff proves how strong the subject-matter is and how highly entertaining the opera (★★★★★) - opera review
  • Planet Hugill’s roving music correspondent, Tony Cooper, reports on Berlin’s Festtage (★★★★) - concert review
  • Humanity, Energy and Poise: Bach's St John Passion at the Holy Week Festival (★★★★½)   - concert review
  • Atmosphere at the expense of text: Wednesday at St John's Holy Week Festival (★★★½) - concert review
  • Challenging the traditional concert format: I chat to pianist Alexandra Dariescu about Nutcrackers, creative entrepreneurs and women composers  - interview
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