MISCH-MASCH & PETER AND THE WOLF – Arcola Theatre, London.
Presented as part of the Arcola Theatre’s 2015 Grimeborn season (a programme of opera – new, redeveloped, rare and traditional), Basement Orchestra’s performance of these two pieces with a narrative accompaniment is a fun, playful addition to the Grimeborn lineup.
Basement Orchestra is a collective of semi-professional and amateur musicians who revel in playing in unusual places; although the Arcola Theatre is not necessarily an unusual place, the intimate space of Studio 1 created a charming setting for their rendition of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and a new piece Misch-Masch, composed by one of their viola players, Jasmin Kent Rodgman. Both pieces were narrated by Jacob Sebastian Harewood, whose voice is rich, emotive and a delight to listen to.
Peter and the Wolf was brought to life in a delightful mix of a wholesome orchestral sound and interesting vocals from Harewood. The Basement Orchestra, seated in a typical orchestra setting made this piece fun for the audience to watch as well as listen to. Different sections and instruments were used to represent each character in the narrative: the spritely strings for Peter, the chirping flute for the Bird, the sassy oboes for the Duck, the sultry clarinets for the Cat, the resolute bassoon for the Grandfather, the powerful French horns for the Wolf and a mix of instruments and percussion for the Hunters. Throughout, Harewood’s voice peppers the music with narration, often leading into the familiar character motifs, as well as unravelling the actions and fates of the characters with subtle changes of intonation.
Jasmin Kent Rodgman’s Misch-Masch is a fun and quirky piece that sets Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky to music. Heavy on percussive sounds, with a vibrant, lively mix of the full range of orchestral instruments available, Misch-Masch is an enjoyable assault on the senses – the music is added to by four, frivolous confetti cannon detonations that fill the space with a riot of colourful paper and add to the carnival atmosphere already being created through the composition of Misch-Masch, combined with Harewood’s energised rendition of Jabberwocky through a megaphone. Harewood’s distorted voice adds an eerie quality to his telling of Jabberwocky that is totally befitting of this collaboration and really does enhance the performance.
Basement Orchestra have struck upon a fun concert concept here with these two narrated pieces, Misch-Masch and Peter and the Wolf – it will be interesting to see what their next concert will bring and what unusual space it will be in.
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By Emily Jones
16 August 2015
Arcola Theatre, London, E8 3DL.