Brighton Magazine

The Brighton Magazine

Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Sunday 12 May 2013

Btn Fest Review - 'Britten: The Canticles' Vies For Best Production Of Brighton Festival 2013

For the past week Ben Britten has looked anxiously on (from the silver vault Made in Heaven for all writers artists and musicians).



He has watched Stravinsky leap from cloud to cloud in joy thanks to the Great Enormo Rosen, he has see Schubert's puffed out cheeks go pink with pride at Paul Lewis' great expressionist rendition of his sonatas. But poor Ben has had nothing, so far, and in his centenary year and all.

Since last Thursday that's all changed. Now is his chance to shine and how brightly shines the star of this big genius and all the little geniuses that came together to roll out a show like 'Britten: The Canticles' at the Theatre Royal, Brighton.

Pulling together music, singing, film, dance, acting and 'movement' this was a show all choreographed and profound rather than just directed and shown.

Seamless, beautiful and always striking just the right note its only shame was that it was only being performed once, this deserved a week of performances at the very least. 


'Britten: The Canticles' is simply the performance of the festival so far, Ian Bostridge and Iestyn Davies led the cast in a this stunning production by Neil Bartlett and Paule Constable. 

Britten's canticles are a kind of high art in tapas form. Five short pieces, like the dishes in a fine Andalucían mountaintop bar, make up a fantastic but rich menu.

No pomp, no snobbery, no nothing-like-that. This is art, plain and simple, but with a bewitching complexity that lies just underneath the surface if you really want to go and take a peek.  

The longest piece is seventeen minutes, the shortest just seven, all were written at different time from the 1940s to the 1970s, but are usually performed together. 

Some are remembrances of dead friends, others adaptations of poems by Edith Sitwell and T S Elliot. 

Canticle one, 'My Beloved Is Mine', for example, is a remembrance of his friend Dick Sheppeard, and was visualised by the choreographer of this production as a passionate but unfulfilled sexual moment shared by two men over breakfast.

"He is my altar, and I his holy place,
I am his guest and he my living food.
I"m his by penitence, he mine by grace
I"m his by purchase, he is mine by blood.
He"s my supporting elm, and I his vine:
Thus I my best beloved"s am,
Thus he is mine."

Canticle Three 'Still Falls the Rain', is based upon a poem 'The Canticle of the Rose' by Edith Sitwell, and is an imagination, from experience, of the bombing of London by Nazi aircraft during the Blitz.

The works seems to compare the bombs that fell on the city with the nails spears and thorns that were said to torment Christ on the Cross. 

His pain is compared with suffering of London, and imagined in film by this production using the back wall of the Theatre Royal stage as a backdrop, all grey brickwork, industrial and usually unseen, with shining images of bombs falling, an ironic cloudburst.

"Still falls the rain -
Dark as the world of men, black as our loss-
Blind as the nineteen hundred and forty nails
Upon the cross "

Looking at the sources that Britten Drew on for his canticles; friends, poets, Bible stories - it seems to me that the Canticles were already a kind of collaboration, of sorts, from their various inceptions across the years.

Thus, it is fitting that the process of this new production should be a collaborative one, drawing upon the many talents, too numerous to say here, that have come together to create this jewel of a production.

Such is the quality of the Brighton Festival this year it will be hard for anyone to stand out, but this production has done so, head and shoulders.

You, who sat, last Thursday, in the Sydney Opera House or on Broadway, or at the Royal Ballet or the Bolshoi or some such world leading establishment of the arts, put you head in your hands and weep because you missed this, the most beautiful thing of all on a rainy night in Brighton.

Brighton Festival continues throughout this month. See brightonfestival.org for more details.


by: Howard Young (Arts Editor)


Share    

Whats on in Brighton today

Think surf, think beaches, think long heat-filled days of youth and young manhood, and more than anything think Brighton's 60s Mod-heyday. 
A Hailsham mum of one, Charlotte Hutson who has Type 1 diabetes is looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help out at a sponsored walk to raise vital funds for Diabetes UK that is taking place in Eastbourne on 19th September 2015.;
Brighton Digital Festival, the UK's largest celebration of digital culture, today announces its programme of more than 150 events for the festival’s fifth instalment which runs from 1st to 27th September 2015.
This year's Brighton Early Music Festival is celebrating Women - as composers, performers, inspirational characters, muses and symbols, and includes the largest UK celebration of historical women composers.
Over the last few years Manchester Orchestra scrapped a full album's worth of tracks, replaced their rhythm section and parted ways with their record label. But, there was hope on the horizon .. 
A creative Brighton man who founded a unique theatre company to allow deaf, disabled and hearing children to enjoy performances together has been recognised with a national honour.
Sufjan Stevens came to prominence with the first album to be released as a part of his Fifty States Project, a collection of folk songs and instrumentals inspired by his home state of Michigan. 
Originally, Nic Joly, the cousin of comedian Dom Joly, started sculpting as a hobby, crafting his miniature characters out of clay, paper and wire to hide around his home for his children to find.
It was a sorely belated recognition for one of the most beautiful voices of the 21st century,matched by a songwriting and lyrical prowess that conveyed every atom of pain, fear and endurance that has defined John Grant's life so far, not just with a striking level of self-awareness but the most life-affirming streak of dark and scabrous humour too.
A collection of signed limited edition artworks comprised of iconic Marvel comic book covers are available at Castle Fine Art, Brighton, from Friday (24.07.15).
Before his death, actor Terence Rigby asked dramatist and close friend, Juliet Ace, to assist him in compiling his biography. With such a wide and varied career, Ace knew it would be no easy task. Unfortunately, Rigby died before she had even scratched the surface.
Kate Rusby is able to inhabit a song with unforced conviction – no matter how old or how modern – she has that rare ability to transport her audience, of touching them emotionally and making each tune live vividly within their experience and imagination.
South East Dance is bringing dance to the streets of Brighton as part of Space To Dance, a campaign to generate awareness and support for The Dance Space, a new home for dance in the heart of the Circus Street Market regeneration area.
Visitors to Brighton Dome will be able to immerse themselves in the wonders of the ocean without getting their feet wet as the Ocean Film Festival World Tour returns to the city later this year. 

Archive search

Search our archives for what's on and gone for the best of this city's theatre music comedy news and much more...






Latest Brighton Jobs

Retail Sales Assistant – Hove Shop

Retail Sales Assistant – Hove Shop. Chestnut Tree Hospice offers specialist palliative care to life limited children, young people and their families and is the...
St Barnabas House - Brighton
More details

Communications Operative

This post is subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exceptions Order) 1975 and as such it will be necessary for a submission for Disclosure to be made...
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust - Brighton
More details

Coast Traineeship Mentor

To support the Project Co-ordinator to organise and deliver relevant enrichment and social activities. To provide intensive support to 16-18 and 19-24 year old...
Sussex Coast College - Brighton
More details

Audiology Assistant

This post is subject to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (Exceptions Order) 1975 and as such it will be necessary for a submission for Disclosure to be made...
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust - Brighton
More details
Organising a conference or event in Brighton?
See our Brighton Conference section.
Brighton web design by ...ntd