Sunday, 25 October 2015

Legacies of War - Dawn, Hyde Park Picture House - My personal thoughts

(Accessed from

I had the opportunity to attend this screening of Dawn on the 24th October.  Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds is the only venue in the UK to screen this unique silent film. I felt privileged and it gave me an opportunity to know more about Edith Cavell, a heroine and martyr, depending one one's view point. I'm intrigued about Cavell after seeing a mountain named after her in Canada and seeing her memorial in London.

Cavell, a British nurse, was executed on the 12th October 1915 in Brussels.  The reason for her execution was aiding the escape of Allied soldiers in German-occupied Brussels. 

Firstly experts gave presentations about Cavell and the surrounding circumstances.  It is agreed that Cavell became a focal point in public conciousness from that point until today, the centenary of her death.  There are different versions of the nurse's death and her persona was and is carried out throughout particularly in pro-war propaganda.

This silent film is produced by Herbet Wilcox, a war veteran,  Dawn initially didn't go down well particularly with the German Embassy, British Foreign Office, the War Cabinet and British Board of film censors.  It was then considered distasteful and questioned its historical accuracy.  Therefore it was banned but eventually the ban was circumvented and screened in local cinemas.

Dawn, starring Sybil Thorndike, was accompanied by live piano, played by Darius Battiwalla.  The credible film gave a humane and realistic perspective about Cavell in her nursing duties and how she cared for everyone including her enemies in her care.  Certainly contradicts the propaganda carried out in World War I.  It was an excellent screening which draws the legacy of Edith Cavell. Further information about the work Legacies of War and Gateways to the First World War do can be found here.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Opera North's Barber of Seville - Personal Account

I first saw The Barber of Seville in January 2004, an Opera North production, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Following from this I naturally had high expectations that this production will be just as enjoyable it not more!  

Opera North's The Barber of Seville
(Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton and accessed from 

The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia in Italian) is an opera based on Pierre Beaumarchais's Le Barbier de Séville. The music is composed by Gioachino Rossini and the libretto by Cesare Sterbini.  The musical score is renowned for its greatness with its comedic elements and it certainly stands out unique.  It premièred in Rome in 1816 and hasn't looked back since! There were some characteristic links to Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. 

One can't help falling in love with its music, particularly the overture, and the English translation does not compromise the opera's spirit.  It's about Rosina and a young Count who have fallen in love.  Doctor Bartolo, Rosina's guardian, is not happy with the situation and does his best to get in the way of their love.  With hilarious and witty story twists and repercussions along the way  and help from tongue in cheek and witty Figaro and bribe accepting Basilio, Rosina and County marries.  In the end true love reigns and comically all ends well.

We had understudy for Rosina with which the artist more than excelled in the role and laughter reigned in the audience with outstanding performances from Nicholas Watts (Count), Gavan Rang (Figaro), Alastair Miles (Basilio) and Eric Roberts (Bartolo).

Russell Craig's traditional setting and costumes are unique with primary focus on the Dr Bartolo's home and Figaro's barbers underneath. It feels like a "theatre in a theatre" with guests sitting at both sides of the stage watching the story unfold and is assisted with curtain drops and backstage activity.  Even at the interval young boys were bringing in hot pasta, assumed for the guests.  The staging and direction has a down to earth feel and all supported by Opera North's orchestra and its conductor, Stuart Stratford.

Certainly one of the best operas I've seen on my opera going journey and I can't recommend this production enough.  A great review here from The Reviews Hub on its production's press night.

Please check out Opera North for more information on this production and also schedules and prices.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange

Bradford Interchange, October 2015

Freedom Studios presented Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange at the beginning of October.  Written by Rav Sanghera this play invites the audience to witness encounters between people from all walks of life beginning a school reunion, a cleaner helping a customer in need to a busy business man engaging with an asylum seeker.  

Not set from any primary theatre space with hypothetical sets but performed in a busy transport interchange.  The scenes could not appear any more authentic such as the railway platform, on a bus, in the toilets and in public spaces.  The encounters are visible to everyone where one can eavesdrop on conversations.  The conversations link appropriately with personal, social, political and economic issues that are relevant in Bradford's society today.

The transition interlinks nicely from one scene to another with the character existing and entering scenarios which the audience follows.  All done seamlessly in a public space where many brief encounters take place daily.  Stories shared in the play replicate some of the many that are replicated in real life.

Sanghera's aim is to connect people from different backgrounds and circumstances.  One cannot get a better theatrical experience with different people entering and exiting with diverse stories.  An intimate and heart warming play where one is moved from life experiences by a handful of people.  Visiting Bradford Interchange will certainly make one think of what stories are share from day to day and what life journeys the passengers are taking.