The Glass Chronicles by Ken Nicol The High Barn, Great Bardfield, Essex
Sunday November 20th 2011
A flyer announced “High Barn’s Most SPECTACULAR production to date”…so expectations were high for this show. A smart programme (pity about the typos throughout) provided the background and the libretto and a few photos of the cast. Briefly, the work consisted of the alleged ‘spirit’ communications received by the composer Ken Nicol and his partner via the ouija board. During the course of the production these were accompanied by music (from the band and a string quartet), black and white video footage of Ken describing his experiences and thoughts about them, colour videos mainly of scenes from nature and some of the spoken words (again with typos!). In addition to this a small cast presented a dramatic representation of the events front of stage including a narrator.
The High Barn provides a superb venue for many different events. The building is a beautifully converted vaulted barn with a warm atmosphere achieved by candle lighting and the audience being seated comfortably at circular tables. A well-maintained bar is at the back of the seating area.
As to the performance…it can be analysed in different ways. The performers were very professional. They played, acted and sang well. Ken knows his way around an electric guitar and he was joined by a standard rock band plus acoustic guitars. A string quartet distinctively placed in a balcony overlooking the stage was impressive as was the solo female singer. The lighting was adequate if not ‘spectacular’. I was, however, disappointed with the music overall since it didn’t really explore, in my view, anything new in terms of melody, harmony or rhythm. It consisted of a mainly standard folk/ rock idiom that one has heard many times before in various guises. The concept of the ouija board was presented genuinely but very naïvely. No attempt was made to explain the glass movement via muscular reflex and no procedures were put in place to verify the authenticity of the alleged phenomena. If the participants had checked the literature concerning ouija activity they would have found that vague aphorisms are frequently forthcoming and these are often believed to come from outside of the sitters, but are part of their own subconscious thoughts – especially when there are two or more bouncing ideas off each other. When black magic and witchcraft were dragged into the possible causes and then the spirit of John Lennon was communicating how to make crusty bread (I jest not) I gave up on the possible authenticity of the glass movements.As an overall experience it was quite enjoyable since the High Barn is worth a visit to see virtually anything, but the high ticket price (£23. 50) for this event would not encourage me to watch it again.
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