An archive of arts writing by Neil Cooper.
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Steven Severin – Vampyr
Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh Thursday January 12th 2012 3 stars
The man with the flowing white hair walks towards a small table and
chair to one side of the Cameo's big screen. Sporting a long black
winter coat and carrying a glass of red wine, the man looks as if he's
stepped in from another, altogether darker age of shadows and light.
Especially when juxtaposed against the shiny silver Macbook perched on
the table which he sits himself down before. Such a clash of time-zones
may be accidental, but it's the perfect introduction to former Siouxsie
and the Banshees bass player Steven Severin's contemporary live score
for Vampyr, Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 study in parasitic possession,
in which young fogey Allan Grey blank-walks his way into saving the
lives of a pair of once-bitten sisters.
Because Severin's use of brooding synth shards that ooze in and out
provides a delicious counterpoint to Dreyer's consciously over-egged
visual signifiers, which bridge Victorian melodrama and high-end
expressionism. Ushered in by bells, a recurring theme for Allan, and
even some dance-band jauntiness, Severin's latest score in his Music
For Silents series following treatments of works by Germaine Dulac,
Robert Wiene and Jean Cocteau lends even more menace than Wolfgang
Zeller's original in an intensely brooding and at times
sepulchral-sounding affair, that's wholly serious in intent and
In a monumental shipping container down
by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in
the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either
side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers
can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the
next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.
Inbetween, there’s a confession booth
and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted
documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two
people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a
chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the
floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target
practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally
created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are
clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or
else finding comfort in being together. Opp…
Two sisters sit in glass cases either
side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean
Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power.
Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap
thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either
way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of
their own making.
Once the sisters come to life and drape
themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they
raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags
and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they
aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as
played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing
narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal
classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of
Slabs of sound slice the air to
punctuate each scene of Mart…
In the dead of night, the audience are
split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures.
Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp
and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part
space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical
structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms.
Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as
performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on
either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of
their own, twisting around each other by way of the international
language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper,
before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left
stranded, a gulf between them.
This international co-commission
between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour
Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …