Month: December 2015

A Night of Flamenco

On Saturday 7th May 2016 Colchester’s Mercury Theatre plays host to the passionate and seductive art form of Flamenco when the Jairo Barrull Flamenco Company present:

El Llanto Se Mueve (The Cry Moves)

Flamenco dancers Jairo Barrull and Irene ‘La Sentio’ are joined by a full cast of award winning gypsy musicians from Andalucia to evoke the pure essence of flamenco’s soul: el llanto (the cry).

Jairo said: El Llanto is the root, the beginning of everything flamenco.  El Llanto is purity, beauty, sadness and suffering.  It is the mixture of cultures, identities and it is history.  It is the voice of our ancestors, The Untouchables caste that came from India centuries ago.  The singer’s cry that interacts with the cry of the guitar strings is what inspires me and makes me move.  It makes me lose myself in my dancing and brings about that magical moment on stage.  What some might call ‘El Duende’.

Jairo Barrull El Llanto Se Mueve 2

Jairo Barrull has been performing professionally since he was seven years old.  He comes from one of the most charismatic gypsy flamenco families in Andalucía ‘Los Negros de Ronda’ also known as The Del Gastor family.  Jairo has performed all over the world including a performance at the Vatican for the Pope John Paul II when he was just 13 years old and in sell out shows at the Alte Oper of Frankfurt with German juggler Francis Brunn in ‘Incognito’ and at the Berliner Philharmonie where the German press repeatedly declared him ‘The Hope of Dance’.  In 2009 he formed his own flamenco company which has presented flamenco shows ‘Barrull’ and ‘Dos Ramas’ in some of the most prestigious flamenco festivals in the world.

Flamenco dancer Irene ‘La Sentio’ has performed extensively throughout Spain and in 2008 she became a finalist in the ‘Concurso Nacional del Cante de las Minas’.  In 2010 Irene joined Farruquito’s company and participated in two of his shows including ‘El Baile Flamenco’ where she toured South America and received great reviews.   Irene currently resides in Madrid where she performs regularly at the ‘tablaos’ Casa Patas, Villa-Rosa and El Tablao de Carmen.

Jairo Barrull press review:

“An artist so remarkably accomplished and even elegant at every moment”

 Los Angeles Times

Irene ‘La Sentio’ press review:

Irene’s feet, neat and blunt, a real hurricane of force”   

Manuel Sualis, Jerez Jondo

Jairo Barrull El Llanto Se Mueve

For more information please visit www.jairobarrull.com

Date: Saturday 7th May 2016

Venue: Mercury Theatre, Balkerne Gate, Colchester, Essex CO1 1PT

Time: 7.30pm

Tickets: £20 & Discounts

Call: 01206 573948 or visit www.mercurytheatre.co.uk

 

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

After months of endless speculation since its release date was announced, Colchester 101’s Andy Oliver was one of the very first to see the Christmas blockbuster. Here’s his review.

Star Wars

The Force Awakens is a sprawling, expansive, space-opera epic that will have Star Wars fans leaving the cinema with huge grins, empty pockets and a sense that their franchise has been rescued from the mire of the unsuccessful prequels. There’s huge star-ships, alien worlds, straight-arrow good guys, dark as night villains, laser guns, light sabres, a sense of humour, exciting battles… and a sense of familiarity that is both its strength and its weakness.

There’s a new Death Star in this movie. Starkiller* Base is not a space station this time but an entire planet, seventeen times larger than those seen in earlier movies. When I tell you this, I don’t mean it as a spoiler but a clue to where The Force Awakens sits, it’s as much a complete reboot of Episode IV: A New Hope as it is a sequel, played on a vastly expanded scale. There’s lots of familiar plot beats, but with a twist on them: There’s not a princess hiding a secret in a droid, but an X-Wing pilot; the central hero lives on a desert planet but she’s not happy about leaving it; there’s a Stormtrooper dressed as a rebel; there’s a villain dressed all in black who’s… well, that would be telling.

Star Wars

There’s also moments you’ll recognise from Episodes V an VI (Empire and Return of the Jedi): A small group of rebels have to knock out a shield generator so the main force can attack the Super Death Star; there’s a cantina scene; a forest planet; an ice planet; stuff too spoilery to go into. Some of the scenes feel more like forced attempts to crowbar in familiar concepts and conceits than an attempt at organic story telling. The sense of magic, of discovery that the original movies shared is missing here. Whilst some may welcome this forced familiarity, those looking for new, weird worlds to explore will probably be mildly disappointed.

Star Wars

But, while the plot feels rather under-nourished and a bit “been there, seen that”, the characters deliver on a massive scale, especially the new ones and they are the best reason for revisiting this series again. Like Luke, Han and Leia in the original trilogy, Rey, Finn and Poe are the reason you’ll want to come back. For every too-on-the-nose callback to the originals there’s a great character moment from one of these guys that make you smile from ear-to-ear at how magical and alive these characters feel.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac from Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina) is the first of the new heroes we meet. Dameron is a straight-arrow good guy, an X-Wing pilot version of a Nicholas Sparks leading man: he’s good to his friends and robot and probably sands down boats with his shirt off. A lesser actor might seem a little Dudley Do-Wright in the role, but Isaac plays him with just the right balance of a square jawed man of action and vulnerability; a good old-fashioned, two-fisted pulp hero.

Star Wars

Attack The Block’s John Boyega plays Finn, a character cursed to give a damn. Finn is originally FN 2187, a Stormtrooper who refuses to do the wrong thing and finds himself turning from The First Order (as the successors to the Empire are now called, I don’t know why, hey, I thought the rebels won at the end of Jedi) and fighting for the Rebel Alliance. He’s equal parts heroic, terrified and full of bluster and steals the majority of the film’s funny moments.

If the original trilogy made stars of relative unknowns Hammill, Ford and Fisher, then Daisy Ridley (as Rey) emerges as the new star of The Force Awakens. Rey is very much the emotional centre of the movie, abandoned on the backwater desert planet, Jakku, as a child by her family and terrified to leave in case she misses her chance at reunion. It is her compassion and the compassion she receives from others that sets her free. She’s the movie’s single-most capable and self-sufficient character and, although her story arc feels a little rushed, you feel the whole saga will pivot upon her. Ridley is great and her on-screen chemistry with John Boyega is worth the ticket price alone.

Star Wars

Of the returning characters Harrison Ford has the lion’s share of the screen time and looks like he’s finally having fun again. Han and Chewie are back in the smuggling game but the Empire and The Force are not done with him yet. Carrie Fisher’s General Leia is basically reduced to standing at the central command console at the rebel base, which is a shame and a waste. The first line of the usual screen-crawl states, “Luke Skywalker is missing”, so don’t expect too much of Hammill and what there is is eye-rollingly predictable.

But it’s Adam Driver (another Llewyn Davis alumni and Frances Ha) as the central bad guy, Kylo Ren, who really steals the show. Where Rey, Finn and Poe feel like Star Wars characters, written with bold strokes, Ren is psychologically underpinned in complex and thrilling ways. He’s a man drawn to the dark side of The Force, praying to Darth Vader to resolve the conflict within him; he wants to be consumed by darkness but the light won’t let him go. He’s petulant; his confidence is illusory, a mask behind which his lack of self-esteem festers. He’s a furious ball of emotions, scary and sympathetic and, when the mask is off, he’s a cauldron of conflict. Where George Lucas failed with Anakin in the prequels, Driver triumphs.

Star Wars

Director JJ Abrams keeps The Force Awakens moving along at a cracking pace, but ultimately it is the dearth of new ideas that holds it back from being a great movie. Too often it riffs on the original trilogy’s action and emotional beats and refuses to be its own beast.

Ultimately, how you feel about The Force Awakens will depend on how invested you are in Star Wars lore, die-hard fans will probably love it, but there’s a little too much fan service for the casual viewer.

*George Lucas’ original name for Luke Skywalker was Starkiller, apparently

 

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver

Colchester Classics – Classical music picks for January

Our classical music columnist Liz Leatherdale, founder and owner of Colchester Classics, brings you her pick of January’s classical music events in and around Colchester

 

Haydn’s Cello Concerto

In January 2016, Laura van der Heijden, BBC Young Musician of the Year 2012, performs Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D with the Colchester Symphony Orchestra conducted by Chris Phelps. Laura gave her debut performance with this orchestra in 2013 in a breath-taking reading of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. The following year she returned to perform the achingly beautiful and emotionally demanding Cello Concerto by Elgar. Having heard her at both of these concerts I can imagine that there will be high demand for tickets. Saturday 16 January at 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester.

Laura van den Heijden began playing the recorder at the age of 4, achieving Grade 8 Distinction in both Cello and Piano by the age of 10!  Since becoming the BBC Young Musician of the Year, Laura has performed regularly as a soloist with a range of prestigious orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the London Mozart Players.

Tickets: £3 – £14. 01206 271128 or email amanda.arnold@lineone.net

 

Mozart’s Requiem

On Saturday 30 January, the University of Essex Choir accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra perform Mozart’s Requiem. Composed during the last year of Mozart’s life it is one of his most popular works, although the question of how much of the music Mozart managed to complete before his death and how much was later composed by Sussmayr or others is still debated. Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall, University of Essex. Saturday 30 January 2016 at 7pm.

Tickets: £5 – £20. 01206 393293

 

If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.

Start your love affair with Classical Music at www.colchesterclassics.co.uk and take a minute to watch their company video:

Liz Leatherdale

Liz Leatherdale

 

Get your skates on!

After months of waiting it was finally happening, the Gala Opening Night of Colchester’s first ever Winter Wonderland and Ice Rink was about to get under way, and the man behind it all, Ben Payne, had kindly invited Colchester 101 along for the evening. And what an evening it was to be!

Winter Wonderland

After entering Castle Park, an area I know so well, we made our way round to the side of town’s Norman castle where our first site of the upper park’s transformation awaited us. Right there, in the shadow of the castle, as promised, was an ice skating rink, looking more magical than we could have imagined, and certainly over delivering on our expectations.

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After spending a while taking in the sight we made our way into the bar and skate hire area where a glass of Prosecco awaited us, before we set off to the rear of the castle to explore the rest of Winter Wonderland with its market stalls offering everything from hog roast, pizza, crepe/coffee and burgers to speciality fudges, Aspalls cider, custom printed Santa sacks, and The Bear Garden where young and not so young alike can build their own teddy bears. There is even a Colchester United Club Shop.

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After a ride on the carousel and a quick go down the helter skelter it was time to make our way back to the rink for the official opening, with speeches from Ben Payne and Colchester’s deputy mayor Julie Young, followed by breath taking skating displays from television’s Dancing on Ice stars Vicky Ogden, Frankie Poultney and Mark Hanretty, followed by skilful performances from local skaters.

Then it was our turn!

Now, my family moved to Canada when I was an infant and I was ice skating almost as soon as I could walk, so this should have been easy, right? Wrong. I haven’t been on skates for many years and, unlike riding a bicycle, I had forgotten how to do it. But I got out there and gave it my best shot and was pleasantly surprised that I could at least make it round the rink, albeit with a little bit of wall hugging, and with each circuit it got easier and my confidence grew. Even a hard fall, which resulted in a sore knee for a couple of days, didn’t put me off, and before long I was feeling pretty pleased with how I was doing. On my travels I spied Will Quince, Colchester’s MP, and Councillor Darius Laws making their way onto the ice, and both looking suitably nervous. Soon they were off, with Will showing what a good sport he is skating lap after lap with the rest of us, but it was Darius who was the revelation, quickly finding his confidence and putting in laps that reminded me of James Caan in Rollerball.

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A little later, after a near fall brought about by overconfidence – although I was very proud that this time I managed to save myself as I began to stumble – it was time to leave the ice and return to the bar for a couple of pints of German lager before heading home after a fantastic fun filled night. Ben and his team have worked wonders, not only with the transformation of the park and the building of the ice rink and other attractions over the past few weeks, but also the months of hard work that have gone into planning and getting the necessary permissions to put on this event that runs right through December and Christmas until January 2016.

Ice

There’s a real buzz about Colchester in recent times, with events like the annual August Free Festival in Castle Park being extended to Sunday as well as Saturday, the change in fortunes at Firstsite under the leadership of Anthony Roberts, the Halloween festivities on the High Street which included a stunning 3D image-mapping show beamed onto the Town Hall, Colchester United putting on superstars like Elton John and Lionel Richie at the Community Stadium, all bringing people into our town for pleasure, as well as to work and to shop. And now we have the Winter Wonderland and Ice Rink to add to the list of why Colchester is such a great place to live.

One thing is for sure, I will be back for another go on the ice before too long, and I hope that this will become an annual event for the town and will grow as the years go by.

Winter Wonderland & Ice Rink is open from 10am to 10pm until 3rd January 2016. Tickets can be bought on their website.

Simon

 

 

 

 

Simon Crow