Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hunters Moon: from beyond the grave

The last few posts have turned into something of a Hunters Moon special. Although the Hunters Moon festival ostensibly shuffled off into that great Altamont Speedway in the sky two years ago, the Hunters Moon name still shows up now and then as a promoter of concert of events. Because I broadly approve of the Hunters Moon people I will basically go to anything they put on unless I am dying of bubonic plague or they are hosting an event in an inconvenient location. So it was that I found myself heading to a place called the Steambox Gallery with two of my associates.

Actually, as locations go the Steambox is pretty inconvenient. It is not too far from where I live but is in that part of town that has "Here Be Monsters" written on it in my mental map, by which I mean it is off Meath Street in the Liberties, a heart of the rowl Dublin location that soft types like me never go to and think of as being a bit terrifying. Walking there with my associates somewhat calmed my sense of terror, as they are both tough characters and I knew that in their company I would be safe from all but the roughest of Dublin gurriers. Also it turns out that one of my associates (let us call him Mr A) actually lives very near the venue, meaning that he is local to that part of town and someone likely to be treated with great respect. Even so it was with some trepidation that I walked through streets whose pavements have never before been touched by my feet.

The Steambox Gallery is some kind of hipster arts venue in what seems like a converted school or somesuch. It has a squatty ambience and felt like the kind of place where you would have to knock three times on the door and say the special password before you would be let in. In our case the door was open and there were no such formalities. The building is big inside and felt like it had been converted from some former purpose, with the concert being in some random bit of it, in this case what felt like it could have been a shed or a lean-to stuck on at the back.

There were a number of artists on the bill, all broadly of the avant garde art nonsense variety. God Hates Disco opened proceedings, combining funny electronic music with film and sound of people ranting about culty religious or psychedelic stuff. Then Three Eyed Makara hit things they had in piles on the floor. Fuzzy Hell worried Mr A by looking like they were going to be a solo woman singing and playing acoustic guitar (not that he is sexist as he would have been equally aghast if it had been a man doing the same thing) but she turned out to be doing electronic stuff as well as the guitarring. I thought it was more interesting than straightforward singer-songwritery material, but Mr A was not having any of it.

The last act was Head of Wantastiquet, who featured one Paul LaBrecque from well-known act Sunburned Hand of the Man. They turned out to be another act of which Mr A strongly disapproves so he left before they started, with the fact that his bed was just round the corner being a big draw for him (there was a another push factor of which I will speak later). I stayed for a bit longer, even though I was getting a bit puppy tired myself. I probably would have gone earlier if I had not found a nice comfy seat to plant myself on while watching Mr Wantastiquet do his thing. His thing turned out to be more droney electronic guitar stuff. I found the second of his long pieces quite engaging but I was getting really tired now so I made my way home.

The event had one feature which contributed to both Mr A and myself heading off early: smokers. As you know, in Ireland due to facism we have banned smoking from places of work or entertainment. In this place however the kids decided that they were going to stick it to the man by lighting up their death sticks. At first this lended the event a certain edginess, accentuating the squattiness of the venue and giving the sense that we were now operating outside the normal rules of bourgeois society. After a while though it all got a bit stinky and my eyes started to sting, reminding me of how rubbish things were before the smoking ban came in. So I scarpered.

Leaving was surprisingly difficult. I just about remembered how to travel through the large building to the entrance but the exit door was now closed and locked. Eventually I managed to work out how to open it but it was a close run thing and I was distinctly fearful that I would be dragged back into the smokatorium and forced to inhale the foul nicotine infused burning herbs until I became one with tobacco addicts.

Outside I was conscious that I no longer had either of my associates to protect me so I made my way out of the Forbidden Zone as quickly as I could. I did my best not to let the natives realise that I was not of their kind, trying to lurk as much as possible in the shadows without drawing attention to myself. The fact that you are reading these words should tell you that I succeeded in making my way home. Or that someone else did who has now assumed the identity that was once "mine".

Afterwards I was struck by one odd thing about the evening. There were quite a lot of people at the event, and it suddenly hit me that there were probably far more people at it than had ever paid to go to an actual Hunters Moon festival. Another odd fact that was pointed out to me on social media was that all the young stinky smokers who were delighting in the cigaretting were all probably too young to properly remember a time before the smoking ban. To them the idea of smoking indoors while music played may have been a genuinely exciting novelty.

image source (Heathen Harvest)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Joinery Halloween Spooktacular

It does sometimes seem like it is taking me longer to write about my life than to live it. This is an account of something I went to last Halloween in the Joinery, a local music and arts venue which has since closed down as part of a general erasure of things I like from the world. The event was organised by the Deserted Village record label, which is run by and releases records by people I think of as part of the Hunters Moon world. First up on the bill was Katie O'Neill, who had already started when I arrived. She played interesting textured guitar music.

The star act of the evening for me was a collaboration between Suzanne Walsh, Brian Conniffe and Diarmuid Mac Diarmada. If you were a hater you might describe this as artwank bollocks but I was in the zone and enjoyed it greatly. There were electronic elements to it as well as the playing of analogue instruments but the particularly amaze feature was the vocal performance of Suzanne Walsh. She was reading from the Grafton Paperback H.P. Lovecraft anthology The Haunter of the Dark, the one with the giant humanoid eating naked women on the cover, and singing Lovecraft's words to us. Or at least, that is what it looked like she was doing, except that I have read that book and number of times and the words did not sound familiar. Aside from Ms Walsh's wonderful presence, what made this performance was the strange and ritualistic nature of it, perfect for a concert on Halloween.

The last act were Tarracóir. I saw them once before, at Hunters Moon 2012, when they played unbelievably hard-rocking music in a tiny café. This time they had a different line-up because their brilliant drummer Bryan O'Connell was unable to make the event, so they replaced him for the night with one Tuula Voutilainen on crazy lady vocals. This was also bizarre and challenging and not the kind of thing that is ever going to trouble the charts but all forward thinking people enjoyed it.

And that was that. There were later concerts on in the Joinery, before it closed, notably a reformation of odd 1990s Irish band Wormhole, but I did not get to any of them. And now this great venue just a round the corner from my home is gone.

more pictures

The Haunter of the Dark (The Internet Speculative Fiction Database)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Horslips rock Sligo

Where was I on the last October Bank Holiday weekend, a full year after the last Hunters Moon festival? It would have been great if I had been in Carrick-on-Shannon, hanging out forlornly outside the Dock and wondering when when the festival was going to start, perhaps making my way to some of the coffee shops or the church looking to see if anything was going on there. But I was not, I was up in Sligo, a bit further along the same train line. As you know, Sligo is the town where my beloved is from and that weekend they were having a load of concerts and stuff on under the general rubric of Sligo Live or something like that. As well as local acts and artist well-known in Ireland if not outside they also had some actual big names (Sheryl Crowe!).

I was not in Sligo to see Sheryl Crowe, I was there to see Irish trad rockers Horslips with my beloved and her sisters. They were playing in the sports hall of the Sligo Institute of Technology. They were supported by Moxie, a local band who also combined trad and rock elements but did seem to come down more on the trad-folk-raggle-taggle side of the coin. They were at least half-decent and I would not object to seeing them again and they were clearly well-liked by the local crowd.

Horslips themselves… well they might be one of those bands who are much better known in Ireland than without. The strode the 1970s in Ireland like a colossus. If you see old photos of them they look amazing in their hairy hippy gear, quite a contrast to the by then tired look of the showbands who were still anachronistically active on the Irish scene. They were massively popular in Ireland, maybe not so much in the UK (correct me if I am wrong, readers), though they did apparently have top ten hits in traditionally hibernophile Germany. As previously noted, their music mixes rock and Irish traditional music elements, with lyrics also often calling to mind Celtic mythology. To be honest, I am not actually that familiar with their music but have liked what I have heard and have long been curious about them, so I leapt at this chance to see them live.

As far as I know Horslips are one of those bands who split up because their appeal had become more selective rather than because they all hated each other. So although they have all gone onto have successful non-musical careers there was no real barrier to them getting back together again and they have done so in recent years for high profile and doubtless fairly lucrative gigs. They had the complete 1970s line-up tonight for us, apart sadly from their original drummer, Eamon Carr, the only one of them I would have recognised. It was quipped that he was away getting ready for Halloween; if you have ever seen a picture of him you will know what she means.

Now, when you have a band made up of people who have all somewhat drifted away from music you would have to worry that maybe live they will be a bit rusty and rough around the edges. When they started off I did spend the first song or two wondering whether I had made a terrible mistake in coming to see them, as the songs seemed little above the level you would expect of an uninspired bar band. But a few songs in they started rocking out properly and also sneaking the trad elements into their tunes, reminding us of their unique selling point. And then they switched to the beautiful slow tune 'Furniture', a song I have heard described as the Irish 'Stairway to Heaven'. I think that might have been the moment that this concert tipped over from being quite good to being amazing. Normally I hate anything that might be characterised as a Lovely Song, but there is a poignancy to this tale of love gone wrong.

The set rolled on like a juggernaut, finishing with a pre-encore double whammy of 'Trouble with a Capital T' and 'Dearg Doom'. The latter is from a concept album based on the Irish hero saga of the Táin Bó Cúailgne, with the lyrics being the taunt of Cú Chulainn before he goes into combat. These are both monster tunes, particularly 'Dearg Doom', each with killer openings instantly recognisable to anyone in my country. They then encored with 'Shakin' All Over', a cover of a song by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates (yarrr), which seems to be their party piece.

I came away from this fired up with Horslips-love. I would definitely go and see them again and I encourage anyone reading this to seek out their music. The Book of Invasions or The Táin might be the records to go for, or maybe Happy to Meet, Sorry to Part being the one to listen to if you want something more contemplative.

image sources:

Horslips will knock the lugs right off you (Horslips official)

Horslips band photo (Horslips official)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hunters Moon 2013: Part 2


On Sunday while other people went to daytime concerts in a local church I went to a circuit bending workshop run by one Rodger Boyle (who makes dark ambient music as Ruairi O'Baoighill). Circuit bending is when you get old toys that have electronic noise making stuff in them and then you dick around with them to make the electronics make different noises. It involves a lot of drilling holes in toys and ripping them open and then messing around with circuit tester things to bypass the circuit's normal functioning in the hope of finding a new noise. When you find something you like you solder the new link in place and then fit buttons and things to the toy to activate it.

I think I had this naive hope that a bit of dicking around with some old toy would mean that I would be leaving Hunters Moon with my own home-made Moog synthesiser. That was an unrealistic aspiration but the circuit bending was fun. At the start I was thinking, "this is just not going to work" but then there was a real moment of excitement the first time the thing makes an unexpected noise.

Apparently there are people in the world who are able to present concerts using their circuit-bent toys. I could also see how this was the kind of thing one could easily get a bit obsessive about and end up scouring charity shops for cast-off electronic toys to add to a collection of funny noise bits of junk. For all the fun I had with the workshop I have thankfully managed to avoid going down that terrible road.

But I could not spend all day wrecking old toys. Eventually I had to leave the workshop and head out to hear some more music. One notable act I saw was one Ivan Pawle. Mr Pawle used to be one of Dr Strangely Strange. Dr Strangely Strange are one of the first obscure cult acts I ever became aware of, as my friend William Whyte had a cassette of one of their then out-of-print albums. They played a kind of acoustic psych music and also had the winning feature of being Irish (though not so you would notice, as they did not have bodhran in their sound or lyrics about the praties).

Hunters Moon had Mr Pawle playing solo in the church venue. I was quite excited by this but it suffered from teething problems. Over the years it has been obvious that the acoustics in the church venue can be a bit difficult and they were initially being uncooperative, trying the patience both of Mr Pawle and I suspect also of Gavin Prior, who was on sound wrangling duties. My fear was that the concert was going to become one long soundtrack of annoyance but fortunately the acoustics were bludgeoned into some kind of submission. Then this became a magical exploration of the delicate music of Dr Strangely Strange.

The action moved back to the Dock. A face painter was available who must have found it amusing to be painting adults rather than five year olds. Cat Piss Brain Riot won the band name of the weekend competition. School Tour (who may or may overlap with Patrick Kelleher And His Cold Dead Hands) played electronic music while wearing a sticky looking cape that hid his features and made him look like underneath it he might be some kind of squamous monstrosity. Control Unit (from Italy or somewhere like that) were intriguingly goth. A particular highlight for me however were the band thrown together to fill a gap in the schedule caused by a foreign no-show, these being a Hunters Moon supergroup comprising the six or seven people who appear in 50% of the acts who play the festival. They seemed in particular to be drawing from the musical cupboard of popular Irish band Seadog (an act sometimes characterised as the post-rock Thin Lizzy), going down well with the home crowd.

Rhys Chatham closed off the festival. He is one of those names I am aware of though I would struggle to tell you too much about him… I think he is from the New York scene or something. He played a set which involved him playing a variety of instruments and sampling himself to create a textured sound etc.

By now word had filtered round the festival that Lou Reed had died. Chatham alluded to this in his set and the whole event got a bit emo. I know that Reed had become a bit of a comedy figure by the end of his life, characterised by his grumpiness and by a certain self-important distance from the rough music of his youth. Nevertheless, for most people present Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground would have been a gateway into the world of weirdo music. So festival attendees started writing Lou Reed lyrics or messages to him in chalk on the floor while listening to Chatham. Maybe looking at this from one remove that was a bit sad but at the time it had a genuine poignance.

And that was that. Two things I missed greatly from the last Hunters Moon were bands who had been stalwarts of the previous two years, Irish hard rockers Wizards of Firetop Mountain and British mentalists Gnod. But hey, they can't be everywhere.

I think it was on the October Bank Holiday weekend in 2014, fully a year after the above festival that it sunk in that Hunters Moon was over and there would be no more trips to Carrick on Shannon for great music. It does not surprise me that the organisers called it a day. For all that I loved the festival, it never seemed to attract that many other paying punters and it always felt like most of the people present were performers of one sort or another. I am not sure why that is. There is not much of an audience for weirdo music in Ireland but there is more than none, yet it seemed as though this audience was not willing to make the easy journey to Carrick on Shannon. Oh well, such is life, maybe it is for the best that Hunters Moon had three great years and then went away without outstaying its welcome and sliding into shite.

more rubbish pictures


Hunters Moon 2011

Hunters Moon 2012

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hunters Moon 2013: Part 1

Yes, readers, I am now going to travel back in time to 2013 and have a crack at reviewing the last Hunters Moon festival I went to on the Halloween Bank Holiday weekend that year. I have been Not Getting Round to doing this ever since the festival ended, with wanting to do the festival justice by producing the Best Ever Write-Up for it. That is not going to happen so instead I am just going to dive in and write a lot of semi-random stuff about it without bothering to look back at my notes or anything like that.

Now of course, you might wonder why I am bothering. Hunters Moon tended to feature some pretty obscure artists and reading accounts of artists you've never heard of playing at a festival you weren't at can be a bit on the dull side. And of course there is the time-lag: this is me writing about a festival that happened a very long time ago. But I feel that as no one else seems to have reviewed this event anywhere it falls to me to do it, notwithstanding the passing of time. The heroic efforts of the organisers in putting on the festival deserve to be remembered.

To recap, Hunters Moon was a festival that took place in Carrick-on-Shannon (mostly but not entirely in the Dock Arts Centre) on the October Bank Holiday weekend for three years running. It featured musical artists from the worlds of strange folk, experimental electronic music and neo-psychedelia. It always struggled to attract an audience (because audiences are stupid) but anyone who ever went to it will agree that it was the best thing ever.

The 2013 festival began with a performance by Divil A Bit, a nom de guerre for the festival organisers and people associated with them. They played droney instruments in the foyer of the arts venue. There was ritualistic parading around. There may have been sporadic hitting of a drum. As with a lot of avant-garde music you could easily have dismissed this as tuneless nonsense, but if you were so inclined then you would probably have made a mistake coming to the festival.

I will not go through all the acts who played, largely because my drug addled brane cannot remember them all in detail. Instead I present a selection of moments.

One thing that was always fun at Hunters Moon were the concerts that took place away from the arts venue, in cafes around the town. We caught two great performances in the Cafe Lounge, a place serious in its love of coffee and one of the few places in these islands that serves coffee in cafetière. While buzzing on caffeinated goodness we were entertained by Devon MacGillivray, a fiddler playing tunes from the Cape Breton region of Canada. She was followed by Sam Burke of popular mediaevalist folkie group Nuada. He played a variety of strange instruments and sang songs, one of which required male audience members to stamp their feet in the manner of a rampant stallion. I did my best.

An act that caused many people to flee in terror was the Phil Collins Project. They did a variety of Phil Collins related things, from performing idiot-savant covers of his tunes to singing tunelessly over concert footage of the great man. I think the Haterz disliked two things about the Phil Collins Project (or the PCP as those in the know call them): firstly, any association with the terminally uncool former drummer of Genesis and secondly the tuneless art-wank nature of the performance. I must admit to a certain Phil Collins sneaking regard so I was more open to this lot than many. I also found the tuneless artwankery to be fun rather than annoying. So I liked the PCP. I am unashamed.

What was also funny was watching the crowd who remained to watch the PCP. When they played concert footage of 'Two Hearts Beat As One', barely singing tunelessly over it, quite a few people started bopping to the crazy Phil Collins sounds. They were trying to look ironic but it was hard not to think that really they would love if someone were to drop all the tuneless experimental nonsense and serve up a weekend of 1980s tat for them to dance to.

This maybe was the night for confrontational acts who divided the audience, for later on the festival presented us with Consumer Electronics. They were a duo, a woman making some kind of loud electronic noise and one of the blokes from controversial perv outfit Whitehouse shouting "Cunt Cunt Cunt" over and over again into a microphone. He also stripped off his top and invited people to come and suck on his bitch tits.

Whitehouse are one of those acts you hear of as being very controversial and confrontational, never afraid of getting in the audience's face. They reputedly like to use images of hardcore pornography to make the audience complicit in things or something. I do not know how similar Consumer Electronics is to Whitehouse, but it seemed like the same kind of thing: puerile confrontation and attention seeking through bad language and infantile transgression. And it wasn't even that edgy. They had images projected on screens while they played but it never went beyond anything you could happily show to your mother, while always appearing as though at any moment it was going to off the deep end.

Still, for all that I thought Consumer Electronics were not that good, I was glad to have seen them. They also provided one of the most memorable incidents of the weekend. At one point Mr Electronics threw a pint of beer into the audience (edgy!), drenching a woman who then charged off to bar and returned with a pint of slops that she then poured over him. He loved it.

An act I thought would be more controversial was this Belgian synthesiser lady who perfromed as Orphan Fairytale. The music was very likeable plinky atmospheric electronic music, so you might wonder why I thought it would prove controversial. Why? Well, I thought its very likeability would put some of my more forthright friends off it. While I was listening to Ms Fairytale's performance I was conscious of how much I was enjoying it but also fearful of the conversations that would ensue once it finished, for fear that one friend in particular would dismiss it all as "fucking tweetronica shite". But this did not happen and in fact said friend professed to love Orphan Fairytale. Maybe I am no longer able to predict what people like anymore.

Come back tomorrow for more Hunters Moon 2013 action!

Phil Collins image source (Miami Vice Wiki)

more rubbish pictures


Hunters Moon 2011

Hunters Moon 2012

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why am I writing a live blog about the First World War?

People have asked me why I am doing my World War 1 live blog. One inquirer in particular wondered whether I have been caught up in the commemoration frenzy and found myself stuck with a desire to mark the "brave sacrifice" of the men who fell in battle.

The question is an interesting one. As is often the case with matters of human motivation, I have I have no ready answer to it. I think it was the neatness of the 100 year anniversary that seduced me. I have been deriving great enjoyment from @RealTimeWWII on Twitter (which tweets real time stuff from the Second World War) and that influenced my decision to try something similar (but not as good) for the First.

One of the big things I am trying to do with the First World War blog is counter the nationally specific nature of so much of the way the event is remembered. I live in Ireland and exposure to the British media means that it is easy to slip into a very narrow view of how and where the war was fought and who took part in it. Irish media largely reinforces that; the war was fought before my own country became independent, meaning that Irish soldiers fought in the British army. So it seems that for many the war was fought entirely by Britain and Germany at the Somme and in Flanders (apart from a jaunt off to Gallipoli featuring some Australian guest stars, while later Lawrence of Arabia does something in Arabia). I want to try and counter that and bring forth that the war was fought in many places and by people from many countries, some of which no longer exist.

I am enjoying learning more about the conflict as I prepare the posts on it. The discipline of keeping the posts coming is a useful one. Readership of the World War 1 blog is not what it could perhaps be, but I am finding the process sufficiently rewarding that I will continue with it for the foreseeable future.


German soldiers advance into Belgium (1914) (Telegraph)

Senegalese soldiers (RTS Canada)

crosses (RTS Canada)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Trip to London Part 6: the British Museum

My account of this trip of last November to London ends rather anticlimactically with a brief account of a trip to the British Museum. I saw the following exhibits:

1. The one on Egyptian mummies that uses exciting new techniques to look inside mummies; it was interesting but having been to Egypt myself I feel like I have probably seen all the mummies I will ever need to in my life.

2. The one on the apogee of Ming Dynasty China. I particularly liked the picture of the chubby fun-loving emperor being carried on a palanquin by some over-worked servants.

3. The one on Germany through the ages that largely ignored the most famous bit of German history. I particularly liked the portraits of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora; while I have seen these pictures before in reproduction, in the flesh they exhibited a carnality you do not normally expect from religious leaders.

4. An exhibition on depictions of witchcraft in printed materials in early modern Europe. This reinforced my sense that witch hunts were not a routine feature of the mediaeval past but rather something that flourished as society began to transform into something like our own.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Trip to London Part 5: London by night

The Sun Ra Arkestra played in the afternoon, leaving time for a contemplative drink before dinner. We visited a charming Dalston hostelry with signs everywhere informing patrons that "POLICE CARRY OUT FREQUENT AND UNANNOUNCED INSPECTIONS OF THIS PREMISES". One of my associates made friends at the bar with a London Irish guy from Central Casting. He took issue with (i) my insufficiently Irish accent and (ii) my asking for an orange juice.

We found seats at a table but then an older woman came in an although she found a seat at another table she seemed to keep looking over towards us disapprovingly. Maybe she was wondering what those ponces were doing in her pub, but I also feared that we might be sitting at her usual table. Or maybe she thought we were undercover cops carrying out a frequent and unannounced inspection.

In any case, we soon left Dalston and made our way to Brick Lane, where we had a frank exchange of views with a restaurant tout. I should perhaps have brought our party to the Bangla Café, my late uncle's favourite place and the home of the Princess Diana painting and some bizarre fantasy lady art. But I went with the flow and we ended up somewhere else and had a pleasant meal at which things were said.

After walking one of our group back to his hotel, where his pipe and slippers were calling him, the night really began for the rest of us as we hit the bunga bunga bars of East London; my lawyer has suggested that I make no further comment on certain events that are alleged to have taken place. Actually no, we went for one last drink in a nice enough bar that seemed to be the kind of place that was popular with the young folk.

And then we went our separate ways. The night being yet young I decided to walk back to my hotel, even though it was quite a bit away. This provided me with another opportunity to photograph Christchurch Spitalfields on Commercial Road.

Passing through Liverpool Street Station, I tried to recreate my great photograph, without much success.

Walking through the City, I espied what used to be the Nat West Tower reaching to the sky.

I also passed a building in which I was once stuck in a lift.

The round building I think stands on the site of a sandwich bar in which Sylvester Stallone's more rotund twin worked.

The illuminated St. Paul's against the night sky created a strange luminous dissidence.

The bridge at High Holborn featured a winged lion holding an orb.

After that I saw nothing worth photographing. I made my way back to my hotel and went to bed, but not before I looked out over Russell Square to Centre Point.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Trip to London Part 4: the Sun Ra Arkestra

I was having such fun indulging my depraved lusts at the British Library that when I made it out to Cafe Oto in Dalston the Sun Ra Arkestra had started playing. You know these fellows, they are the continuation of the band who played with famous jazzer Sun Ra,who descended to Earth from Saturn at some point in the early 20th century before returning home in the early 1990s. Some of the Arkestra musicians played with Sun Ra himself (notably Marshall Allen, their leader). They play jazz which manages to be both forward-thinking and the kind of good-time music that older people could dance to if there was a dance floor. And they wear spangly capes. It was great seeing them somewhere other than a music festival. And although I was standing I was able to get close enough to see them properly and I was not *tired* like the last time I was standing at a concert in Cafe Oto. Top buzz.

image source (Sun Ra Arkestra in Cafe Oto, 2010, from a review by John Sharpe on the All About Jazz website, far more interesting than my brief comments above)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Trip to London Part 3: Gothic

I allowed myself a non-musical interlude the next day, popping up to the British Library for an exhibition they were having on the gothic. This went roughly chronologically from Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto up to the present day, taking in various aspects and detours along the way.

The short Jan Švankmajer animated version of Otranto they had at the exhibition's beginning was fascinating. Apparently this is the only attempt thus far to adapt that classic novel for the screen. Švankmajer is most famous for weird puppetry (e.g. see his Dr Faustus), but this was a combination of Terry Gilliam-style animation and filmed interview with a researcher who had discovered that Walpole's novel is in fact based on a true story that occurred not in Italy but late-mediaeval Bohemia. The blatant fibbery of the framing device was a nice evocation of the original novel's claim to be translated from an original Italian account of actual historical events.

Later on I was amused by some material on The Monk, by Matthew Lewis. This book caused a sensation with its tale of a once-pious monk who is led by a female demon into a life of depraved vice. The exhibition had a printed copy of the first edition that Lewis was proposing to edit into a less shocking second edition, with a page shown in which he was proposing to cut an entire page of perving at the naked breast of a young lady.

While most famous now for The Monk, Lewis was more than a one-book author. The exhibition had material on The Castle Spectre, a play Lewis wrote after the success of that novel. The play also caused a sensation, not through depictions of depravity and vice but because one of the characters has African servants who denounce the institution of slavery. It was felt that this kind of crazy talk would undermine the economic foundations of Great Britain. I do not know whether Lewis threw this abolitionist talk in to shock, out of genuine conviction or for less thought-through reasons. Lewis himself had inherited significant wealth from Britain's sugar-gulags in the Caribbean.

Later on I was taken with a discussion of Victorian sensation novels (e.g. The Woman in White) and then other books that were even more sensational. Novels in which the villain or villainess was revealed as a bigamist proved to be particularly popular in this period, giving away to inevitable parodies like Quintilia the Quadrigamist. The exhibition then linked the sensation novels to the media sensation that surrounded the Jack the Ripper killings in the late 19th century. The original "Dear Boss" letter was on display. This letter was signed "Jack the Ripper", giving the killer the name he is remembered by. The exhibition was gamely suggesting that it might be genuine though I understand that it is generally considered to be a hoax.

One jarring note appeared when they brought the exhibition into 20th century gothic. There is a lot of 20th century gothic, but I was surprised that they foregrounded popular film The Wicker Man so much. That film arguably has some gothic elements (e.g. a sinister aristocrat), but overall it owes far more to folk horror than the gothic and was out of place here.

It was also noticeable that the exhibition had a very British focus. This meant there was a fairly minimal coverage of non-anglophone gothic literature. While Edgar Allan Poe was mentioned, there was no great exploration of the wider American gothic. In some ways this was a bit limiting, but it is the British Library after all, and not everything could be included. One particularly notable omission was the lack of any mention of James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, particularly striking given that Hogg was a British writer.

Overall though, this exhibition was less about information than atmosphere. I may be deluding myself but I think I could more or less have curated this myself, at least with regard to the informational material. But the atmosphere was great, with the whole place in a gloomy darkness (though bright enough even for duff-eyed types like me to read the material), drapes and faux cobwebs abounding and suitably gothic images projected on the walls. There was also a nice finish linking the gothic literature of yore to the current gothic scene.

Would you like to know more? Check you the British Library's fascinating collection of articles on the Gothic.

The Masque of the Red Death (Wikipedia)

The Monk cover (Arukiyomi)

Jan Švankmajer's Castle of Otranto (in Czech, with Russian subtitles)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Trip to London Part 2: celebrating Lindsay Cooper

The event that drew me to London was taking place in the Barbican. This was the Henry Cow and Friends Salute the Magic of Lindsay Cooper concert. My knowledge of the music of Henry Cow and Lindsay Cooper is limited, mainly based on a piece one Mr Dave Berry wrote about them in the pages of Frank's APA and a compilation of music featuring Dagmar Krause put together by Emily K., a star of the Internet. With that limited initial exposure you would think that I would not really be the target audience for this event, yet there I was in the audience. I think it must be Fear of Missing Out that made me not miss this memorable occasion: in my old age have I finally become an Event Person?

Some background for readers who know even less about Lindsay Cooper than I do. Ms Cooper was a composer and musician who played bassoon and oboe with Henry Cow and other acts in the 1970s and thereafter. She also composed music for film and television and so on. She appears to have straddled the worlds of composed and improvised music, being also involved in the Feminist Improvising Group (who sound like the best thing ever). She died in 2013 after suffering for many years from multiple sclerosis.

In format this concert was divided up into segments representing different aspects of Cooper's career, but with more or less the same musicians playing on everything. The musicians included such star names as Chris Cutler on drums and Fred Frith on guitar (the others are probably also star names too but I live under a stone and so did not recognise them), while vocalists included Dagmar Krause, Sally Potter and Phil Minton. The overall musical lineup was like a meld of standard rock formatting with more outré instruments, so you got various keyboards as well as brass and wind instruments.

The concert began with a run of pieces Cooper had composed for Henry Cow, mostly instrumental. Right at the beginning of this there was a bit of false start, where a tune began and then had to be halted because someone had not come in properly or something. Depending on your perspective, this was either a disturbing suggestion that things can go very wrong with live music or an indication that this was going to be an evening of exciting edginess in which things were going to be kept real. Either way the Henry Cow material was a bit rough around the edges, but I liked it.

It is hard for me to produce reference points for the Henry Cow segment, because the instrumentation and the style of music made it sound rather different to most things I am familiar with. One thing that did come to mind was Peaches en Regalia, the orchestral jazz album by Frank Zappa. The kind of soundtracks Michael Nyman used to do for Peter Greenaway also sprang to mind.

The following segments were a performance of music written for a group called News From Babel that Cooper had formed with Chris Cutler, a series of film music she had made with a group called Music For Films and then as a closer music she had composed for a song cycle called Oh Moscow, about the Cold War. The different segments largely blurred into each other, with the music in broad terms being of a roughly similar type. There was more in the way of vocals after the Henry Cow section. Dagmar Krause's contribution was relatively limited. As she was the main draw for me this could have been a major disappointment except that the other vocalists were most excellent and the music generally of a very high standard.

If I was to start handing out prizes to the musicians then it would probably be Frith and Cutler who would be receiving medals from me, though again it might just be prior awareness that had me noticing their work more (and also latent rockism, perhaps, that would cause me to favour them over any of the people on non-rock instruments). The musical highlights were probably the songs from Oh Moscow. The Cold War lyrics went over my head but the music stuck in it, perhaps because it was a bit different to that of the rest of the evening (more piano driven and less rock). Vocals here were by Phil Minton (who is apparently an interesting player in the world of improvised music etc.) and Sally Potter, who had written the lyrics. I was surprised to discover that she is the same Sally Potter who directed Orlando.

I think maybe the Oh Moscow music was the hit of the evening and the segment that was the least familiar to attendees. Certainly the merch stand ran out of copies of that album afterwards. If you are interested in Oh Moscow, there is great footage on YouTube of a piece from it being played in 1991 in Volgograd (with scenes filmed on the streets of that town more famous to the world as the site of the memorable Battle of Stalingrad).

Aside from the members of Frank's APA and our loved ones, there were loads of famous people knocking around at this concert. I saw Thurston Moore queuing for coffee at the interval while there were reports of popular comedian Stewart Lee also being present. And when, after the show, one of my friends said "Oh look, there's Steve Davis", it took me a while to register that he was not talking about some mate of his called Steve Davis but the star of snooker; apparently Mr Davis is a big fan of progressive and forward thinking music, hosting a radio programme on this very subject.

And then eventually we made our way into the night. Getting out of the Barbican proved surprisingly difficult, as the place is huge and maze-like (two of my friends got lost and are still there to this day) but in the end we emerged into the darkness of a foggy London night.

Lindsay Cooper image source (Northern Soul interview with Chris Cutler)

Lindsay Cooper obituary (Guardian)

Monday, March 09, 2015

A Trip to London Part 1: Poppies

Back in November I paid a visit to London, mainly to attend a concert in the Barbican celebrating the life of the musician Lindsay Cooper. I had time for a small number of other things.

After checking into my hotel, I paid a trip to Pudding Lane, where the famous Great Fire of London began. I then strolled on to Tower Hill to have a look at what was left of that poppy exhibit they had in the moat of the Tower of London. This was a First World War commemorative event by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper. The exhibit filled the Tower's moat filled with artificial poppies, one for every British soldier killed in the conflict (not sure if that was just soldiers from Britain or if it included also Irish soldiers and ones from the Empire). I am interested in the First World War (as anyone following my amazing First World War live blog will already know) and in monumental public art, so this touched all my bases.

By the time I got there they had mostly dismantled the exhibit. There were still poppies in one corner of the moat but the rest was bare. What was left looked a bit forlorn, but one could still imagine how the whole exhibit would have appeared. It must have been stunning, a theory supported by surviving photos of the poppy filled moat.

There is a lot of talk about how best to commemorate the First World War (or even if it should be commemorated at all) and many quite rightly decry the creepy enforced conformism of poppy-wearing in Britain. Regardless of that, seeing the huge moats of the Tower as a sea of red would have been incredibly striking and must have made anyone who saw it think about the losses suffered during the war. Whether they would then think that the dead soldiers were all brave lads doing their duty or the victims of a warmongering elite in a pointless conflict would be another question entirely.

After looking at the poppies I walked up to Rough Trade East off Brick Lane, a haunt I am always drawn to. This is one of those places that some Londoners I know are very dismissive of, but I think perhaps they would be less so if they did not have other record-selling emporiums. I am conscious of having too many CDs and was also trying to not spend loads of money on this trip (ha!) while also foreseeing that I would probably end up buying something at the concerts I was going to later, so I limited myself to just one CD here, a Sublime Frequencies release of proto-Rai music. One day the so-called powers that be will let you see my review of this record.

Come back tomorrow when I will describe the Barbican concert for Lindsay Cooper.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

[film] "Mr Turner" (2014)

This is a Mike Leigh film in which Timothy Spall plays the well known 19th century artist J. W. M. Turner. It tells the story of the latter part of his life. It looks great and has some great scenes and performances but overall it is not brilliant. It lacks a narrative thread and seems to be just a sequence of events. Turner's inner life is largely unexplored. Instead we see him being casually exploitative of his housekeeper and needlessly cruel to the mother of his daughters (born out of wedlock), yet he is capable of genuine tenderness with another woman he ends up forming an attachment to.

I find with the less successful Mike Leigh films I end up wishing the entire film had been about one of the minor characters. With Happy Go Lucky I wanted an entire film about the uptight driving instructor (even if "uptight driving instructor" is something of a lame cliché), while with Career Girls it was the Welsh flatmate who needed to have his story told. In this one, it was the personally difficult and unsuccessful other artist whose story seemed more interesting (if also more miserable) than that of Turner himself. Or perhaps a film about Ruskin, who appears briefly here with the actor capturing the man's strange mix of punchable ponciness and impressive critical sensibility.

Still, the film has much to recommend it. You do get a sense of how mid-19th century art did seem to be moving towards stylised and abstract forms that were then abandoned until the 20th century. The evocation of the period generally is very vivid. And as noted above, there are great performances here. Spall shines as Turner, even if the man remains a mystery. Also impressive are Dorothy Atkinson as his housekeeper and Marion Bailey as the widow with whom he strikes up a relationship. And although she only appears in a short scene and has almost no lines, I was struck by Kate O'Flynn as a prostitute Turner visits and sketches in a brothel; her face was wonderfully communicative of a sense of contempt for her clients, though she may also have stood out in a film otherwise mainly featuring older actors.

Sound design corner: the film-makers lavish great attention on the correct depiction of Turner's derisive snort.

I was also amused by how every time we saw the exterior of Turner's house, the same gentleman was walking by with his dog.

image source (Guardian)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

[film] "The Babadook" (2014)

This is an Australian horror film. It is about a widowed mother and her troubled young son, who is obsessed with the idea that monsters are going to come and get him while he sleeps. His fears keep his mother awake at night and for much of the film she is in a sleep-deprived state. As someone blessed by an inability to sleep properly I empathised with her.

The film undergoes a transition when the son finds a storybook in the house about the Babadook, some kind of monster that comes for people when they sleep. The book has no author information but the illustrations seem to be about the mother and her son. And the book seems to change, with more text and illustrations appearing on hitherto blank pages. Nevertheless the film preserves an ambiguity as long as it can as to whether the whole business is just the woman suffering a breakdown triggered by sleep-deprivation or whether they are actually being stalked by a strange monster (spoiler: they are).

As a horror film, this is very effective. Without the use of jumps or things leaping out at you, it manages to communicate a sense of terrible dread and unease. At one point the film had me so on edge that I was genuinely wondering why I was putting myself through this kind of wringer. Light, sound, and a suburban house that mutates into a gothic mansion all work together to create an atmosphere of palpable evil. The ending is unusual, though. Without revealing the terrible secret, it does not end with the horror defeated or the horror triumphant; rather there is a strange accommodation reached with the demonic force.

Babadook book (New York Times)

Friday, March 06, 2015

[Film] '71 (2014)

Directed by Yann Demange, this is a film about a British squaddie (played by Gary Hook) sent to Belfast in 1971. You get the sense that like most of his unit, he had never previously heard of Belfast; their officer has to explain to them that they will still be in the United Kingdom. While out in West Belfast he becomes separated from his unit and has to try and get back home while being hunted by an IRA hit squad. I first became aware of it when I saw a poster for it while attending a folk horror conference in Belfast and it struck me that the concept has some similarities with all that folk horror business. The protagonist is an outsider in a location where things are strange, the locals unfriendly and alliances shifting. The urban setting is perhaps a new twist.

Because the film is told very much from the point of view of the soldier, there is relatively little sense of the politics and background of the Northern Ireland conflict. The viewer has to infer as much as they want to from conversations and things observed. While the best bits of the film might be the relatively few scenes in which the soldier is being chased around West Belfast, the film is nevertheless more than being a straight high octane actioner. By the end of it you do have a sense of the murky world of the struggle at that time, with undercover soldiers supplying bombs to (incompetent) loyalist paramilitaries and running double agents in the IRA factions.

The film begins with scenes in which the soldier is undergoing basic training in Britain. I was struck by how different these were to the training scenes in Full Metal Jacket, say. While the trainers were shouting at the trainees, a gratuitously abusive element seemed to be lacking and there was a sense that the training was about imparting skills that would keep soldiers alive rather than just breaking them mentally. Apart from the shifty undercover soldiers, the army is portrayed relatively positively, at least towards itself. The soldier's unit is headed by a dimwitted Rupert from central casting, but his heart does at least seem to be in the right place, and with the rank and file soldiers and NCOs there is a sense of them looking out for each other. The undercover soldiers and the more senior officers are different: they seem to have been morally corrupted by their role.

On Twitter I read Graham Linehan saying of the film that it suffers from having the main character becoming essentially inactive in the second half of the film. After actively seeking to stay alive in the first half he becomes almost entirely reactive, with his life and welfare relying on the decisions of others. In some ways that criticism is valid though it perhaps misses that by the second half the soldier has been through one incident of an extremely traumatic nature (physically and mentally) and is not really in a position to do very much. The change also works in plot terms as it allows for a widening of point of view, to the various British Army actors, to IRA cadres in West Belfast, and to the ordinary people of the city into whose lives he descends.

I have also heard one or two people grumbling about a film set during the Northern Ireland conflict taking the point of view of a British soldier (rather than, say, heroic members of the struggle for Irish freedom). They may have a point, in that it will be a while before anyone makes a film portraying the Lads as the heroes. But this film is too wise to the ambiguities of the Northern Ireland conflict to be a British equivalent of John Wayne's The Green Berets. And a film about a soldier lost alone in hostile territory is always going to be more interesting than one about people making bombs out of fertiliser in their attic.

The music is by David Holmes, who is himself from Northern Ireland, and is very impressive in context.

image source (Recent Movie Posters)

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Where do you listen to music?

How do you listen to music? Where do you listen to music? Answers to these questions are key to our relationship with music. These days I listen to a lot of music on my iPod, but what I listen to is very constrained by the situations in which I listen. When I am walking to work, I want up-tempo music that is going to encourage me walk briskly and not dawdle. When I am listening to music before going to sleep I want relaxing sounds that will not challenge my brain. I have created playlists to cater to these two situations. When I add music to iTunes, if it gets into a playlist for one of these situations then it will get listened to. Otherwise not so much, at least not on the iPod.

In Panda Mansions we have the stereo set up in one room, but I tend to spend a lot of my time in the library-study, working away on my Important Project. We talk sometimes of rigging up speakers in the library-study, but it has not happened yet, so if I am sitting there I sometimes listen to music on an iPod (though not so much, as I find headphones a bit distracting if I am working), sometimes I play the radio on my computer (RTE Lyric or one of the BBC music stations), and sometimes I play nothing. My beloved does not feel the need for ambient music in the same way that I do, so often the only accompanying sound is the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard or the sound of the street outside. Other times I can hear the sound of Georgian music wafting from the other room, either as my beloved gives the Basiani record another listen or plays songs on her computer that she is trying to learn.

It bothers me sometimes that I have all this recorded music that I ostensibly like but do not seem to listen to that much. I am always talking about taking steps to deal with this.

And you? Where, when and how do you listen to music?

Panda Twin Birthday (Giant Panda Zoo)

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

[record] U2 "Songs of Innocence" (2014)

This is that U2 album that Apple gave away for free, annoying billions of people around the world who had not worked out how to delete things from iTunes. The extreme reaction to this whole business in some quarters did rather surprise me, as it seemed akin to throwing a massive strop because you find a CD you don't like cover mounted on a magazine.

The record itself… well I have listened to it a couple of times. It is alright, in that when it is on I do not think "Jesus Christ turn this shite off" but I would not go as far as to say it is actually good or anything like that. I certainly cannot see myself listening to it again much. I have long been a sneaking regarder of U2, for all that they are not particularly popular in the circles I move in. With this record I find it hard not to conclude that whatever spark U2 once had is now gone. Still, they had a good innings and few are the bands who have produced so much great work.

Sneaking Red Panda

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

[film] "Maps to the Stars" (2014)

I saw this David Cronenberg directed film recently. It is scripted by Bruce Wagner and contains many allusions or parallels to the Wild Palms comic he wrote in the early 1990s, including:

Maps to the Stars
creepy child actors
disturbing family dynamics
Carrie Fisher
'Nana Nana hey hey (Kiss him good bye)'
general dark side of Hollywood vibe

and so on.

The story is multi-stranded, though the strands of course come together: people who seem only to have tenuous links to each other turn out to have much closer connections than might initially be apparent. Cronenberg has reached that stage of his career where he can get good actors to appear in anything he does, so you get some stunning performances here. I particularly liked Evan Bird as the spoilt teenage actor. Julianne Moore as a disturbed actress and Mia Wasikowska as a new arrival in Tinseltown also impressed me.

Cronenberg might have gone off the boil a few years back but lately he has really got his mojo back again. Maps to the Stars does not fall into the kind of strange genre film territory that alienates respectable audiences, but it had enough creepiness and body horror to feel like a proper Cronenberg film.

Bruce Wagner's Wild Palms

Monday, March 02, 2015


In the pages of Frank's APA we are running through the letters of the alphabet.
Possibly the same summer (1988, 1989?) that I went to see Hawkwind with Mr W— in the Brixton Academy I also caught Inspiral Carpets playing in some venue in Camden (Dingwalls?). They were an up and coming band at the time. My memory is that all that Manchester stuff was on the way up round then, and as they were from Manchester they were riding that wave. By the time I saw them they had moved on from their cassette only first album and had changed lead singer to the one who would sing on all their hit records, but the basic template sound was in place. They had beaty tunes with the organ sounds of Clint Boon prominently featured.

Before the concert a looped voice played over the PA saying something like "Tonight… in Manchester… two hundred people came to see… Inspiral Carpets… the biggest bunch of wankers… ever". It was hypnotic and vaguely amusing. I think Mr W— and I kept saying it to each other for years afterwards. This was in the pre-Internet age; we had to make our own entertainment.

Inspiral Carpets were on the way up at that point and they did go on to some success, having hit singles and seeing one of their tunes used as the theme music to a Saturday morning kids TV programme. But I think the real prize eluded them and they remained a second string band. When I saw them again some years later in Dublin, they were still a a great live band and able to draw a reasonable crowd, but the sense was that they were a band on the slide. I remember liking the album they were pimping at time, and also the lead single 'I Want You' on which Mark E. Smith guested, but I do not think it overly excited the record buying public.

History has not been kind to the Inspiral Carpets. They seem to show up in books about the music of the era to be dismissed as the kind of rubbish band who acquires a certain following simply by association with other, better outfits. That seems a bit unfair. I would not make any claims for Inspiral Carpets being one of the great bands of the late 20th century, but they are a good solid mid-level outfit.

Or so I thought before I started writing this piece. Putting it together for the web I checked out some Inspiral Carpets tracks on YouTube and have been struck by what earworms they are. It might be that two unfortunate things counted against the Carpets. One was being associated with all the Madchester ravey stuff when they were basically a 60s revival outfit (which was the basic template of all indie bands pre-Madchester, except that they were a lot better than the others). As a non-ravey band they are always going to be remembered as not really a proper Madchester band and so will always be a bit marginal in histories of that scene. The other problem is that their biggest hit was something of a lovely song ballad; that is never good in retrospect. If they are to be remembered it should be for the likes of 'Two Cows', 'I Want You' or 'She Comes In The Fall'. Or this.

Dung 4 (Plain or Pan)

1988 band photo (Guardian)

Sunday, March 01, 2015

[theatre] "Ganesh versus the Third Reich" in the O'Reilly Theatre

I theoretically love going to the theatre but never seem to do so in practice. This is one of just two things I saw in the Dublin Theatre Festival last year. What I picked up from the programme was that this play was about Ganesh (you know, elephant headed Hindu deity) coming to the Third Reich in order to reclaim the ancient symbol of the swastika from the Nazis, which was enough to make it sound like it would be worth seeing. I also registered that it was being performed by Australians.

When the play started, though, I had a slight moment of "where's the fucking Nazis?", as there were neither Nazis nor Hindu deities on stage but two fellows not dressed in 1940s garb. When they started talking I was further confused, as their speech was a bit hard to understand. My first thought was that they were speaking with incomprehensible Australian accents or else that some incompetent had taken over the theatre's sound. But something else soon became apparent: the two actors onstage were both people with intellectual disabilities.

It turned out that the play had three actors with intellectual disabilities and two without. And it was a bi-level thing, partly about Ganesh trying to take the swastika from the Nazis and partly about a theatre company featuring people with intellectual disabilities trying to put together a play about Ganesh trying to reclaim the swastika from the Nazis; the narrative about the actors was probably the dominant one here.

Split narratives often suffer from the problem that one of the narratives is a lot more interesting than the other. In this, though, they both seemed to work well enough together. In the Third Reich narrative Ganesh teams up with an intellectually disabled Jewish lad he rescues from Auschwitz, which of course reminds us that the Nazis were not exactly friends of people with intellectual disabilities.

Each strand of the narrative had at least one great scene. The Third Reich story had a great train carriage episode in which an over-familiar black marketeer starts trying to sell tights to the escaped Jew (who is in disguise, obv), asking an endless series of questions about his girlfriend, her sisters, his sisters, his mother and so on, all potential purchasers of nylons, with the questions forcing the invention of ever more outlandish details about all these non-existent people. It was a scene of the kind of building menace you get in Quentin Tarantino films (think in particular of that opening scene in the farmhouse in Inglorious Basterds).

The outer narrative, meanwhile, has a wonderful extended scene in which the increasingly unhinged actor-director is trying to get one of the ID actors to die properly when shot. It too builds and builds, from a physical comedy of frustration to a deeply uncomfortable episode of rage, to actual theatrical violence.

The ID actors were interesting, in that they were all really good albeit within a limited range. I don't think any of them would be able to convincingly play a character who was not intellectually disabled, but they very much came across as playing roles rather than just being themselves onstage.

There is a scene where the actor-director addresses the audience (or imagines addressing the audience when the play is being staged), accusing them/us of having come along for an evening of "freak porn". I think we were meant to shuffle uncomfortably in our seats at that, but it washed over me. I had no advance awareness that the play featured intellectually disabled actors and this must have been the case for many other people present, as the theatre festival programme did not mention it. Even if you had come along to this expecting something of that type you would probably leave a bit disappointed. The acting is too good and the play too tight to have any kind of freakshow aspect.

So all in all this made for an enjoyable if strange night of theatre.

image source (Sydney Morning Herald)