Symphony to a Lost Generation. Review.

I got my fix of the arts this week by watching Adam Donen’s Symphony to a Lost Generation.  The subject matter was World War I; its horrors, its suffering and also highlighting the gruesome nature of lesser publicised atrocities that took place throughout the conflict, such as the Armenian genocide.

It was performed and filmed previously, then along with fantastic post production graphics, vintage film inserts and computer wizardry, was projected as ‘3D’ holographics onto two sheer screens.  This brought back a certain element of depth to the show, making it feel like a cross between cinema and stage.

Formatted as a five movement symphony, the score was played by a full and rich orchestra, supported by powerful opera singers.  The silence from the screen itself brought an eerie quality to the show, no swishes from the ballet shoes on the ground, forceful stamps only reverberating by sight.  Despite being the core of the whole production, somehow sound felt detached and almost incidental to the images, much like a silent movie.  Displaying the images in this format brought both the sense of presence and emptiness in equal measure, which was uncomfortably pertinent to the subject matter.

The visuals showed a number of world renowned performers in ballet, theatre, and music who were clearly masters of their art; Ernesto Tomasini as a grotesque mime and the stunning voice of soprano Yana Ivanilova as highlights.  Their storytelling skills were all used wonderfully to discuss the horror of war in both specific and broader terms.  Although there wasn’t a story as such, the narrative was constant throughout. Everybody was a victim.  Everybody died, if not physically, then certainly mentally, emotionally; they fell out of the world in one way or another due to war.

The use of Butoh dance was a new one to me, and as a dance fan, this was the stand out scene; it’s hard not to be in awe of a dance form said to be born from the ashes of Hiroshima, where the painfully slow, yet jerky, distressed movements of the dancers were formed to convey suffering, disbelief and lack of hope.  That, to me, was the tragedy so triumphantly demonstrated in this piece; that the dance form exists at all.

My emotions didn’t engage fully while watching; I maintained dry eyes throughout.  But I think this was a good thing.  I was, however, engaged politically, it gave me space, and I had a lot to say about both war and art on my journey home.

As an artistic concept,  Donen’s Symphony to a Lost Generation was entirely complete.  His personal journey of piecing together this installation was full, ambitious and lavish; drawing themes from Wagner and technology, being bold enough to enlist hundreds of the world’s best performers and brazenly punctuating scenes for the eyes and ears with iconic references and imagery.  From conception to performance, editing and delivery, tiny details and the vast scale of what was accomplished is remarkable, and something that could only have been done with Donen and his team’s driving ambition and dogged perseverance.  The coming together and unity just to make the show hangs heavily as an overtone to the piece, again pushing the art to the fore, which I feel is no bad thing.

This is no west end show.  It is an important breakthrough in art.  Each movement deserves a space in every modern art gallery across the world with an accompanying plaque next to the images and with surround sound music to make the experience more immersive.  This is how we should be remembering war.  Not as one person’s story, as a relentless repeating act of violence indiscriminate of who or how many suffer.  Go and see it, then bring your teenage kids to see it.

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Why we shouldn’t celebrate ‘mum-fails’.

I made my children cry today.  Actually, it was two days ago, but I still have an aching gut from the guilt of what I did.

I’ve apologised profusely to all three children, age 7 1/2, nearly 5 and 2.  I explained why I was in a terrible mood; ‘when Daddy’s away it’s sometimes a lot for mummy to cope with’, ‘I was cranky from having Baby’s toes digging in my ribs for most of the night – I clung to the edge of the bed like a rubbish mountain goat’, ‘no-none was doing anything I asked this morning…at all!’.  Their relief at my change of stance was palpable. Their forgiving faces and tea saucer wide eyes were drinking in and accepting my reasoning, but we all knew these were not valid excuses; I wouldn’t have accepted it from them.  I teach them that there are no valid excuses for losing patience, for raising our voices, for being dismissive or unkind.  And that if we do those things, then we are entirely accountable for our actions.  Being kind is all that matters.  And in that moment I was a hypocrite.  And in that moment, they knew it.

The issue was ‘resolved’ and we’re back to our normal cheery selves.  Moving on, we’ve since shared the best loving cuddles, belly laughs and sweet exchanges.   The metaphorical chalkboard tally of ‘Days mummy hasn’t shouted for’ has been restarted at ‘0’ (now at 2), it’s amazing what a deep breath and a clean slate can do to boost my mummy motivation.

Yesterday I was researching some other blogs and parenting websites for another project when, still guilt ridden, I was drawn to a number of articles and posts and authors whose appeal was built upon the notion that we’re all actually a bit crap at motherhood.  And we are at times.  Accepting this may be self effacing and heavily tongue in cheek, which is great, no-one likes an ego.  But article after article and blog after blog, whether it be a subtle undertone or not so subtle overtone, I felt overwhelmingly that, as a whole, there is a strong narrative of celebrating ‘epic fails’ in the mum blogosphere.  This is echoed in mum circles of our generation, who are so used to ‘sharing’ as a concept, and have found so much validation for bad parenting both close at hand with friends as well as at arms’ length through internet forums.

While we find comfort knowing we’re not alone in our shortcomings and faults, just because everyone else is doing it too, doesn’t make it right.

Our adult level of emotional intelligence is able to see the bigger picture as we try to sweep things under the carpet after a fall out with our kids.  But what we have to remember is how things are so much more black and white for them.  Children live so vitally in the moment that when we lose it with them, they question our love for them.  Simple.  However overdramatic it seems to us, it feels very real to them.

We communicate these episodes in our well accustomed sing-song chatty way, often laughing at ourselves; confessing, admitting we’re ‘terrible’, making it about us while we rest assured ‘they’ll be alright, kids are resilient’.  But when we do this, what becomes apparent is that we are forgetting about our priority, which is the welfare of our children and the bond we have with them.

We should bring back a little gravity with our remorse, while fighting their corner at all costs. We must not be disrespectful to their sensibilities, which are so raw and honest and needing of our support.  We do inevitably leave emotional scars on our children, which chip at their sense of security, we just need to be grown up enough to acknowledge it so that we don’t break them.  Kids are smart, they don’t forget.  Also, behaviour is learnt, so do we want them to become emotionally detached when feelings run high? Of course not.

We may not be perfect, but the least we can do is be constant by loving our children, respecting them at all times and perhaps not making light of our indiscretions.  I think it’s right I feel such awful guilt after shouting at my children.  It’s heartbreaking, and it ought to be.

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