Twisted Christmas

As I mentioned yesterday, last night I went to the Barbican Centre to see their Twisted Christmas show. The show was definitely a mixed bag. Most of the musical performers were good. I particularly enjoyed Alasdair Roberts’ “The 12 Days of Yule” (On the first day of Yule my druid brought to me a crow in a Yggrasil tree), Ed Harcourt’s “The Devil Came Down the Chimney” and Polly Scattergood’s version of “Walking in the Air”. The whole evening was compered by Jeremy Hardy who I haven’t seen for far too long and who was on top form. Other, less impressive acts included Simon Fisher Turner who seemed to think that singing “In The Bleak Midwinter” with lungs full of helium would be entertaining. It wasn’t.

But, for me, the evening was completely ruined by The House of Fairy Tales. They appear to be a loose collective of performance artists who had been invited to do something interesting in a side room. Their antics were then projected live onto a huge screen at the back of the stage. This really didn’t work. The stuff they were doing bore no relation to what the musicians were doing and it just proved to be a pointless distraction.

Some examples of the nonsense:

  • The man who covered himself with a sheet whilst his partner projected pictures of cultural icons (Gandi, Lennon, Chaplin) onto him.
  • The person who moved animal bones around on a lightbox attempting to demonstrate that they made up a fairy.
  • The man who painted over postcards to turn them into winter scenes.
  • The man who took power tools to old books.

This is the kind of stuff that you see in obscure corners of the Green Field at Glastonbury. You don’t expect to see it given credence at a top London venue. I don’t think I’ve seen anything so embarrassing since I saw the Ice Man – a man whose act was to melt a huge slab of ice live on stage.

When bands like Pink Floyd have visuals projected behind them on stage, they spend a lot of time ensuring that the images match the music that they are playing. They don’t just turn a video camera on a bunch of nutters backstage. And do you you know why? It’s because they know it’s a recipe for disaster.

At the start of the second half the nutters were let out onto the stage and we were forced to sit through ten minutes of the worst “comedy” that I’ve ever seen (and, trust me, I’ve seen some bad comedy in my time). If you ever have a chance to see acts calling themselves “Story Pirates” or “Princes in the Tower” then my advice would be to run very fast in the opposite direction.

At times I felt really sorry for the musicians. It can’t have been easy trying to compete with that huge screen showing such an unremitting stream of shit. I know that the organisers were just trying to an a little something different to the show, but I hope they can see that this was a complete disaster.

I’d like to go to Twisted Christmas again next year. But I shall be studying the programme closely for signs of pointless performance art before I go.

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