Monday, 20 July 2015

From The Skinny, Fringe 2006 and The Sufi Festival at Tramway

Beneath his poor ear for language, Sondheim has a strong sense of tragedy, working tensions towards an emotional resolution.

At nearly two hours, 'Passion' demands more attention and patience than most Fringe shows: Sondheim's music is not blessed with memorable melodies, and the libretto is frequently prosaic. Nevertheless, Primavera's production received a deserved standing ovation.

Although set against the background of a provincial Italian military barracks, Sondheim's meditation on the nature of love concentrates on the tangled relationships of Gorgio, a romantic officer, his glamorous mistress Clara and the sickly invalid Fosca. Giorgio, performed with bovine charm by Jonathan Chambers, is repulsed by Fosca's displays of desire, only to find that she teaches him the meaning of love. 

Tormented by illness, Amy Payne's superb Fosca seems perverse, but gradually reveals her spiritual beauty. The third lead, Chantelle Stannings, is beautiful, seductive and hollow: this triad of stunning performances overcomes the score's weaknesses. The remainder of the cast, although solid, are overshadowed.

Beneath his poor ear for language, Sondheim has a strong sense of tragedy, working tensions towards an emotional resolution. Primavera do not innovate in terms of staging, but the quality of the singing captivates: this is exquisite and profoundly moving entertainment. [Gareth K Vile]

The Sufi Festival was billed as a celebration of arts and harmony; attended by over two thousand people, it brought musicians, academics, poets, actors and craftsmen from around the world to Glasgow's Tramway to celebrate the mystical sects of Islam. There was even a Sufi-themed fashion show.
Sufism's most famous expression is music, and the Qawwali singing of Sher Miandid Khan elevated a capacity crowd in the largest auditorium, while Bangladesh's Joler Gaan made great use of the Hidden Gardens for more intimate performances. The largest space in Tramway was turned into a bazaar and the stalls spilled out into Albert Drive, filling the street with the aroma of Eastern food.

Lectures and films explored the historical and contemporary relevance of the Sufi way, examining the strategies that Sufis have used to overcome religious conflict in India and Pakistan. The message of peace, love and harmony was made clear in the careful skill of the traditional craftsmen from Mulan, the passionate singing and the performance of 'Bulla', a dramatisation of the life of a Sufi saint.

Shazia Mirza provided stand-up comedy direct from the Edinburgh Festival, and the members of the Association of Poetry and Music Glasgow - who organised this event - were delighted by the numbers attending and the happy atmosphere. As an introduction to Sufism, it lacked a clear, detailed exposition, but, as a social event and a vivid demonstration of an ancient yet dynamic tradition, it was overwhelming.

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