The Velvet People team have followed up their Arts and Cabaret festival successes (Instructions for an Imaginary Man and The Velvet Gentlemen respectively) with a very female offering of I See Your Beating Heart – A Mother’s Cantata.
Last night’s once only show was broken into two halves. The first was a take on 18th century composer Robert Schumann’s song cycle about love, birth and death (quite some wedding present to his new bride, Clara) and the second I See Your Beating Heart – A Mother’s Cantata with music by pianist Richard Chew and lyrics by Sheila Hill.
VP’s Creative Producer, Cheryl Pickering was the vocalist for the first part which was promoted as a ’contemporary and irreverent’ take on Schumann’s work. Pickering’s beautiful voice delivered and worked seamlessly with Chew’s leading work on the piano. Just what either the content or the purpose of the ‘contemporary and irreverent’ aspects were all about eluded this reviewer, with more mystery being attached to exactly when the translations relative to the music would appear on the projection screen behind.
The second half was probably the more successful part. Three vocalists (including Pickering again) and a piano trio took us through the very mixed maternal emotions of child birth and rearing, accompanied by Nic Mollison’s monotone images of his own son, Jiri. From the excitement of hearing the first heart beats to flailing around with a first born, uncertain about what works and what doesn’t, to the dawning twin sensations of both triumph (and miracle) and loss of freedom, the various songs took us there effectively – new and old mothers would have relived every word,causing some no doubt to shed a tear
In the hope this production gets a subsequent life, there were some improvements that could be incorporated. The attempt of the players in the second part to sport some dash of (foetal blood) red fell short for consistency of effort and varying hues. At the risk of the vision distracting from the singing, Mollison’s images would nonetheless also benefit from the Ken Burns treatment.
I See Your Beating Heart – A Mother’s Cantata, like their previous two recent works, certainly confirms Various People’s appetite for the different, the excellent and the innovative. Here’s to hoping this show gets more runs and that yet greater potential of the work is realised.
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