The Courier: “A Nasty Piece of Work”
Louise Hall, 26 Nov 2018, The Courier
Now to say attending the performance of Pierro De Luniare was one hell of an experience, is a bit of an understatement.
When I arrived at Cobalt studio in Heaton last week to witness a live classical performance described on its website as ‘a nasty piece of work’ about ‘madness, death, sex, dreams, and trauma’ I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and I think it’s pretty safe to say anything I could have predicted would have been completely mistaken.
Having only ever seen a handful of west end performances in London and a myriad of student theatre in Durham, I was interested to see some independent performance in the flesh and offer and outsiders opinion. And nonetheless, as a graduate of English Literature and a fan of Freudian psychoanalysis, the themes of the performance seemed to be something I could get on board with.So, in an intimate theatre setting made up of a collection of sporadic chairs and benches, immediately parallel to a modern four poster bed and surrounded by classical musicians in minimal black clothing, I sat, with a severely non-student friendly priced beer and an open mind.
For the first hour, BBC 3’s Elizabeth Alker spoke to the Director and Composer, giving some background context to the piece, and discussing their particular interpretations of it in this performance.
While the contextual information about Schoenberg and the 1912 Vienna from which he wrote, was both relevant and interesting, the in depth discussion of the directors interpretations of the work somewhat felt at odds with the core values of the piece itself.
It seemed a tad frustrating to have the meaning behind such a subjective performance clarified directly to the audience, before I’d even had a chance to form my own interpretations. If anything, this rather took away some of the fun of individual analysis away.
This, alongside the fact that these conversations were presented in a faux interview style approach, where the interviewee’s obviously knew exactly what questions were coming, left me impatient to move on from the introduction and allow the chance for the musicians to speak for themselves.
In the second half it became very obvious very quickly that the collective are undoubtedly a talented set of musicians but also, through their erratic and volatile composition, this particular performance was not something to be enjoyed rather than something to be experienced.
The unpredictable hybrid speaking singing voice of Lotte Betts-Dean, meant to put you on edge throughout the piece, accomplished just that and her performance of the unhinged Pierro, darting about the room in unstable unpredictable movements, was both believable and arresting.
However, sat in a room who as Burke stated ‘must know a little bit about this piece otherwise you wouldn’t be here’ and being there nonetheless, it was difficult to feel that I was completely sensitive to its abstract significance.
As a result I found myself at some points caught between the opinion that this may have been a conceptual cultural masterpiece, or the image of stereotypical artsy theatre that people like my Yorkshire born parents may laugh in the face of. I’m still yet to decide which my final verdict is.
In summary, Pierrot Lunaire was probably the least light-hearted, enjoyable piece of music I’ve ever listened to, but then again I think that was kind of the point. And in terms of the Manchester Collective itself, I’d be more than eager to see what else they have up their sleeves in the upcoming months because while Schoenberg didn’t exactly win me over, their talent as musicians certainly did.