Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Artificial Hip Dramaturgy: Ida Barr on reviving a career


The world’s first music hall star turned hip-hop icon Ida Barr will tread the boards of one of the East End's best-kept secrets, Wilton’s Music Hall, once more from Thursday 11 to Saturday 13 February 2016 in brand new show Artificial Hip Hop.

Renowned for her two massive hits Oh You Beautiful Doll and Everybody’s Doin’ It, Ida has now embraced a whole new musical genre which she has christened Slipped Disco, also known as Artificial Hip Hop, as featured on various pirate grime radio stations around London’s East End.

To great acclaim, she has launched her new album, Get Old or Die Tryin’, and she invites you to join her for an old fashioned, new wave sing-a-long.  Ida’s going to be mashing up Rhianna with Dan Leno, Omi with Noel Coward and Marie Lloyd with Eminem, whipping you all into a frenzy for her epic rendition of Jerusalem by Blake mashed up with Nicki Minaj.  

Believe us, you ain’t heard nothin' like it.

Who is Ida Barr?
Ida Barr was a real music hall singer who died in 1967.  I heard her on a recording in the National Sound Archive at the British Library and immediately had the idea to bring her back to life.  Or rather, imagine her life if she hadn't have died back in 1967.

What attracted you to modern music in a vaudeville style - or is that vice versa?
It’s a simple comic conceit - music hall meets hip hop - but it’s also a rich musical one.  Win win!

Why perform live rather than just make an album?
Ida is very much about the chatting and the jokes as well as the songs.  But more than that, she is about interaction.  Old fashioned sing-songs and the communal joy that comes from all being in the same place at the same time.  Don’t get me wrong - I’d love Ida to have a blistering radio-friendly hit - but really she is best experienced live.  Whilst she still is.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
The fact that the character was created out of lots of historical research is typical of the way I work.  I just wrote a book about the history of Hypnosis that came out of my research for my character, The Singing Hypnotist.  But Ida has really been created in live performance, with a huge variety of audiences from toddlers playgroups, to hospices via hen parties and everything in between.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
I hope the audience find they are joining in without feeling self-conscious.  Because everyone is doing it.  From bellowing along with sing-songs to getting up and dancing the hokey-cokey.  

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
I spent a lot of time making it very well constructed so that you are supported and reassured every step of the way, so that it feels natural to take that immersive leap.  

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
My work is at the entertainment end of live art.  Or at the live art end of entertainment.

Are there any other questions that might help me to understand the meaning of dramaturgy for you in your work?
I think the audience is the best dramaturg.  They tell you what they want and don’t want.  I see my job to encourage them to want the same as I’m offering.  That the trick!

Ida Barr is the creation of Olivier-award winner Christopher Green also known for BBC Radio 4 favourite Tina C. Ida has graced stages at the National Theatre, Tate Modern and Britain and the Barbican, as well as livening up many a variety and comedy night around the globe. She’s appeared in her own series, ‘Artificial Hip Hop’, on BBC Radio 4 with special guest, the beatboxer known as Shlomo.     

Thursday 11th to Saturday 13th February 2016

8pm and also 3pm on Saturday

£15 stalls, £10 balcony, £8 concessions

Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB


Wilton’s Music Hall is a gem in the heart of the East-End and the best surviving example only intact survivor of the early music hall era. This prestigious Grade II listed venue has been carefully  repaired after four years of building work with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, SITA Trust, Viridor Credits, The Loveday Charitable Trust, The Foundation for Sport and the Arts, Garfield Weston Foundation, Aldgate and Allhallows, The City Bridge Trust, The Foyle Foundation and numerous other Trusts and individuals to which Wilton’s are hugely grateful. The Grade 2 Star listed building is a focus for theatrical East End history as well as a living theatre, concert hall, public bar and heritage site.  

Christopher Green is a writer and performer whose work
covers comedy, cabaret, theatre and live art. He is Tina C., Ida Barr, Jedd O’Sullivan and a host of others. He is also himself.  The Australian Newspaper called him ‘the most intelligent man to come out of the UK since Stephen Fry’, The Independent called him ‘Britain’s best drag queen’, and The Guardian ‘an entertainment maverick’. Chris can’t comment on any of these.

  hypnosis, acupuncture, Mary J Blige.

:  self-loathing, war, celery.

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