Singing the violinist’s body electric

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Singing the violinist’s body electric

Several musicians crawl across the stage floor. When they find their instruments, they play in a tangled heap of legs, violins and cellos. And then, somehow, they dance.
Thus begins Lucy Bailey’s latest production with the Gogmagogs, a string ensemble with an intensely visual approach to music theater. The company, based in London, will bring its latest show, “Gumbo Jumbo,” to the National Theater of Korea from Tuesday to Thursday. The performances here are part of the third Folk and Modern Arts Festival.
Director Lucy Bailey and violinist Nell Catchpole founded the Gogmagogs in 1995 as an experiment. “We wanted to move the electric currents back though the body,” Ms. Bailey said in an interview with Eye Weekly. “The whole body becomes a larger, more expressive instrument, bringing out the essence within the music.”
They worked with young musicians willing to push classical music in new directions. A violinist falls in love with a cellist, who fights off her advances. The musicians roll around the stage, while playing.
When the Gogmagogs began performing ― with a bassist, two cellists, a violist and three violinists ― shows like “Troy Town” were structured along the score. But try running and fighting while playing the violin and adhering to a strict composition. The very physicality of the performance paved the way for improvisation ― musical and dramatic, which in turn adds to the excitement of the pieces.
It’s a direction that the Gogmagogs will continue to explore. So far, the group has created more than five shows and collaborated with 21 composers and five writers from Madagascar, Palestine and Iceland as well as the United Kingdom. They have performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre and the Edinburgh International Festival. They have invited composers to perform with the band, added scripts and committed themselves to devotional pieces.
“Gumbo Jumbo,” the 90-minute-show to be performed in Korea, draws upon earlier productions. It features 11 musical pieces influenced by everything from Malagasy dance rhythms to Arabic modes of improvisation to contemporary Western classical to big-band sounds.
The name derives from gumbo, a spicy Creole stew that can be made with just about anything in the pantry.
Those who have followed Ms. Bailey’s career will be familiar with her taste for the avant garde. Her strong reputation is founded on productions like the world premiere of “Samuel Beckett’s Lessness” and her work with the composer Django Bates on a staging of Tennessee Williams’s “Baby Doll,” which also won raves for Bunny Christie’s set design.


by Joe Yong-hee

For more information, visit the Web sites artsfam.com/gogmagogs or www.gogmagogs.com or call (02) 3273-6885. Tickets cost 35,000 to 70,000 won.

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