BADENHEIM

Second Stride’s Badenheim was based Aharon Appelfeld’s novel Badenheim 1939, in which a group of Jewish holidaymakers assemble for their holidays in a spa town in the hills. Summer in Badenheim revolves around the festival, organized by Dr. Pappenheim. There is huge expectation attached to the festival, partly because there’s almost nothing else to do. A febrile atmosphere, ricocheting between excitement and boredom. Meanwhile, the council is carrying out mysterious works. The town is being remodelled. Parts of it become out of bounds. The people are anxious, but try to ignore the intrusion on their summer enjoyment. Gradually, unnoticeably, the town becomes more isolated. There’s less and less to eat, and a mild anarchy breaks out. The hotel stores are raided. Dr. Pappenheim is reassuring. The festival is going well. As summer ends, people prepare to leave. But it doesn’t seem to be possible. The anarchy worsens. The pharmacy is raided. Dr. Pappenheim puts his affairs in order. Elsewhere in the town, there is chaos. A train appears. ‘Because the carriages are so dirty,’ says Dr. Pappenheim, ‘it must mean we haven't far to go.’

 

The book is written in a detached style, rather W. G. Sebald-like, as if Appelfeld were a scientist. Curiously this makes the characters more sympathetic, and the tragedy more terrible. It’s easy to be critical of the people’s myopia, but difficult to believe one would have acted differently oneself.

 

We converted this troubling book into a piece of dance-theatre. Originally Arnold Wesker was going to write a script, but he disliked my music so much that he decided not to. I still have the rather alarming postcard which he wrote to me. Sian Evans stepped in, and created, in a much more collaborative way, a beautiful script, allowing for complex movement and dance sequences. The piece was performed by the dancers Lucy Burge, Betsy Gregory, Catherine Malone and Philippe Giradeau, the actors Linda Dobell and Damien Dibben, the singers Richard Chew and Beverley Klein, and a marvellous all-female band: Abigail Brown (violin), Sarah Homer (clarinets, double bass), Dini Pressman (trombone, double bass), Clare Salaman (accordion, hurdy-gurdy).

 

Researching for the project, I started to introduce myself to klezmer music (obviously) – not entirely easy to find at the time, as it had gone underground in WW2, and hadn’t fully re-emerged. I listened to the splendidly rough-and-ready New York band The Klezmorin, and the more sophisticated Klezmatics. I was bowled over.  Like the best folk music, it was somehow simultaneously life-affirming yet tragic. It had a profound influence on my music, not only for Badenheim but several subsequent projects, including an elaborate piece Birds On Fire I wrote for the viol consort Fretwork.

HOTEL

Libretto by Caryl Churchill

Directed by Ian Spink

Designed by Lucy Bevan

On this recording: US couple: Daniela Clynes, Michael Dore; Affair couple: Mike Henry, Jenny Miller; French couple: Eleanor Grynwasser; Gay couple: Rebecca Askew, Louise Sofield; Drunk couple: Carol Grimes, Ian Shaw; Businessman: Anton Browne; Birdbook woman: Melanie Pappenheim; TV, Ghost: Angela Smith

On tour: US couple: Daniela Clynes, Michael O’Connor; Affair couple: Richard Chew, Jenny Miller; French couple: Marjorie Keys, Andrew Bolton; Gay couple: G T Nash, Rebecca Askew; Drunk couple: Carol Grimes, Ian Shaw; Silent couple: Gabrielle MacNaughton, Colin Poole; Businessman: Wayne Ellington; Birdbook woman: Louise Sofield; TV, Ghost: Angela Smith

The band: Alex Maguire, Walter Fabeck (piano), Sarah Homer (double bass)

 

Caryl says What do like about opera?

I say The bits when everyone sings at once.

 

So what about this? she says. One night in a hotel. Eight rooms simultaneously.

 

People sing duets, trios, quartets with people they never meet. Their lives intersect in the realm of shared emotion, of counterpoint and polyphony.

 

The action is everyday, consciously undramatic.

Script

 

Score available on request

 

TWO NIGHTS

Lyrics by Caryl Churchill

Directed by Ian Spink

Designed by Lucy Bevan

Dancers: Gabrielle MacNaughton, Colin Poole

Singers: Daniela Clynes, Michael O’Connor, Richard Chew, Jenny Miller, Marjorie Keys, Andrew Bolton, G T Nash, Rebecca Askew, Carol Grimes, Ian Shaw, D W Matzdorf, Louise Sofield, Angela Smith

The band: Alex Maguire, Walter Fabeck (piano), Sarah Homer (double bass)

 

A companion piece to Hotel. As strange as Hotel is quotidian. A dance piece where Hotel is an opera. A hotel room as a place to hide, to disappear – into thin air.

 

From a diary found in a hotel room:

 

Hand Gone

 

my hand has gone

january

very late at night

today my whole left side

six and a half minutes

 

July

 

july

city out of sight in the haze

wish I could disappear

magician made the tower disappear from the ground up

and all the people who lived

 

Thin

 

thin and cold

the wind blows right through me

 

Mysterious disappearance

 

mysterious disappearance

 

the judge said

any disappearance or loss

unknown puzzling baffling

hard to explain or understand

mysterious disappearance

 

 

a ring left on a dresser

later it’s not there

the loss would be mysterious disappearance

 

Suddenly

 

suddenly at a party

ran out invisible and hid

saw myself slowly appear in the mirror on the wall in the

sauntered downstairs for a drink

‘where have you been?’

 

try to stop fading but

 

or shall I try to disappear?

 

no good the way I am

 

Will to power

 

the will to power as disappearance

it says

logical radical option for our time

it says

not a disaster not a death

but a way to what?

 

Shadow

 

will I still have a shadow?

will I still have a mind?

wind blow through

will invisible eyes still see?

Score available on request

 

GOES WITHOUT SAYING

Choregraphed by Jonathan Lunn

Dramaturgy by Antony Minghella

Designed by Peter Mumford

Music by John Lunn and OG

 

Can the dance lead the music? Sometime in 1989, John Lunn and I, having just about survived the band Man Jumping, are composing together intermittently (and happily). We get a call from Jonathan Lunn (no relation). He’s making a piece for London Contemporary Dance Theatre, and he’s already choreographed it, with dramaturgical input from Antony Minghella, using various bits of existing music. Whoa.

 

The first thing is to stop listening to all this music and watch a silent video of the dance, find the rhythms, find the structure, find the whatever-it-is-that-makes-it-tick. A bit like writing music for a film, but there’s no narrative. We find ourselves imposing new structures on the dance, making connections where there were no connections, picking up on some parts of the dance structure, ignoring others, playing a game with the dance, ducking, side-stepping, mimicking, flirting with it, dancing with it. It’s difficult, and we are only partly successful, but then Jonathan goes back into the studio and refines the dance to fit the music. String quartet, double bass, clarinet, harp and accordion – beautiful ensemble!

 

The set’s interesting here – a two-storey construction, the dancers below, the musicians above, suggesting independence but enabling the audience to make a visual connection between them at all times.