Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Mozart Undone

I signed up to Mousetrap Theatre Projects' WestEnd4£10 programme way back in first year, and thanks to the fact that I'm still under 23 and haven't aged out yet, I've continued to receive invites to watch productions across London for £10 or less. It's a wonderful system that allows young people to cultivate a love for the performing arts and see numerous high quality productions we otherwise would have been priced out of. Sometimes, they even do collaborations with theatres, and when I got the email inviting us to write in for free Tweet Seats for Mozart Undone at the Barbican I was pretty thrilled. 

Mozart Undone Tickets

Ever since my first visit when AS brought me to the Barbican as her plus-one for Richard II, courtesy of The Beaver (Our unfortunately-named school paper for which she writes theatre reviews. We got brilliantly placed stall seats, and every time I think about it, it makes me smile), I've thoroughly fallen in love with the place. The seats are squishy and comfortable, the wide open spaces are a welcome change from the usual claustrophobia of daily London existence, they've got the coolest safety curtain (Although "curtain" might be a bit of a misnomer in this case - more like massive metallic casing) and the bathroom graffiti is top notch. The Tweet Seats were all located in the Circle so that our phones and cameras would cause minimal disruption while still affording us a good view. 


Before the show started, the director came onstage to inform us that one of the female singers had developed a throat issue and had been advised by their doctor not to perform that evening. Her replacement had been contacted and was hot-footing it down from Copenhagen, but was still stuck at Heathrow, so the original singer was going to soldier through the pain until the interval since the show had to go on. It was a lot of dedication right there, and we were all suitably impressed. 


It was quite a novel experience having my phone in hand and being able to use it once the show started. It took a bit of trial and error figuring out how the pictures were going to look. Since we weren't allowed to use flash photography, with the stage lighting and the zoom, all the figures eventually took on an oil painting-like quality, which I thought quite suited the theatricality of the performance.  


Mozart Undone keeps what they think are the best bits of musical theatre - the stagecraft, the amazing costumes, the spine-tingling musical numbers, while discarding such pesky things like hackneyed and over-wrought plots and the hiding away of the orchestra in a pit. The chosen elements are then churned together with certain aspects of rock concerts (Set lists! Flashing lights! Sexy rock star vibes!) for a thoroughly revisionist mash-up. You don't realize how good Mozart is as a base for chilling screamo rock songs until you've seen Mozart Undone. 


To be honest, with all the costume changes and the jumps between songs, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on half the time, I was just enjoying the spectacle. Was there time travelling? Was it all a play within a play? During the interval, I spoke to the guy next to me, who confessed that he had no idea what was happening either. As we discussed how our minds impose speculative story lines in order to make sense of seemingly random events, he admitted that in his head, he had to pretend that one character was Mozart in every scene. 

"It's the only way my brain can cope."

I tried to do the same thing in the second half of the performance, and my fevered imagination came to the realization that Mozart is whoever has the biggest hair on stage at any point of the performance. Of course, this system wasn't perfect. Case in point - spot the Mozart:


Much like a rock concert, those searching for deeper meanings here probably won't find it. What you will find is a bizarre, heightened aesthetic that is fairly enjoyable on its own, provided you aren't a massive classical music purist, and don't hate cascades of water and glitter. The whole show pretty much consists of every novelty element seen in other performances, which is a pretty big accomplishment and quite amazing to watch as it unfolds. 


The audience that evening seemed to get into the spirit of things quite quickly, and there was raucous laughter and even some hollers from the crowd throughout the show. You could tell we'd completely gotten over the sacred and embraced the profane by the fourth song, when a bunch of people in the audience added their own noises to The Conference of the Birds, which had been inspired by Die Zauberflöte. The people in the stalls were a pretty rowdy bunch.  


For all that I'm surgically attached to my phone, I never managed to shake the lingering sense of unease I got when using it throughout the show. In addition to that, when I watch shows I usually focus on certain characters but still manage to keep half an eye on everyone else. With the phone in my hand and the camera lens trained on specific persons though, it became disturbingly easy to ignore all that was going on beyond the screen. Still I don't really regret the futile efforts I made at getting a good shot of the guy who was playing the electrical guitar with a violin bow, because that was pretty damn great.  


I spent much of the ride home feeling puzzled and not a little shell-shocked, partially because of the realization that I'd had a really enjoyable evening. I'd once fallen asleep at a classical music concert because I'm an absolute heathen, but I was never in fear of that throughout Mozart Undone. The talent of the singers and musicians is completely undeniable, and while much of the newly-penned English lyrics didn't make a whole lot of sense, the music had been pretty good. I get the sudden urge to groove whenever I hear snatches of Mozart now.


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