|Taken by Darron Palmer|
Let’s be in no doubt about it, we live in philistine times. With the television show Britain’s Got Talent - already a shrine to mediocrity - awarding its first prize to a dog we can safely say that the UK has got issues with intellect and aesthetic taste.
Yet glimmers of inspiration do appear every now and then, even on this often silly, sceptred isle.
On May 13th at the Adrian Boult Hall in the Birmingham Conservatoire, an attempt was made to wake Britain up to its real talent, with not a canine in sight.
A play, concert and fashion show, all-in-one, with the proceeds going to charity, the ambition of the ‘Crossing Boundaries’ show attracted skepticism, particularly from the local media whose support was notable for its absence. You wonder what they were thinking when you take a look at their often unreadable pages and unwatchable local TV programmes. Dross is their watchword, the lowest common denominator their apparent guiding principle, which is probably why they failed to turn up at the conservatoire on Sunday.
The brainchild of local fashion designer, musician and composer, Jojo Remeny, the ‘Crossing Boundaries’ extravaganza began with a play addressing the prejudices of the 1960s, taking as its cue the experiences of George Saunders, an immigrant and master tailor from St. Kitts who struggled to find work in his trade because of the colour of his skin. He ended up a factory worker when he should have been measuring up the rich and famous. Consummately acted and brimming with humour, the play – written by Stephen Moran – made an acerbic dig at the dying conservatism of the decade that wrought so much change.
The concert began after a ten-minute break and made one’s heart soar like a hawk. Fusing Indian music, classical and jazz music, Jojo Remeny’s exquisite symphony took you on a journey through the continents and the emotions too. Tabla, violin, guitar and horns conjoined here and there in subdued harmony, rising temper and threatening crescendo, without the latter yet coming to pass.
I had my doubts about fashion and serious music being intertwined, if I am being honest. Clothing, however sophisticated, bespeaks brand names and the high street; orchestras an escape from all that. Others had reservations while watching the show, with some saying the models should have made their presence felt earlier. I, for one, thought their entrance perfectly timed.
The dancers in their monochrome skirts and dresses entered the scene and glided down the stairway at a moment when the audience was entranced by the music. At just the right time, that is. Their femininity with its swaying hips and limbs flowed in tandem with the soft notes of the musicians until the moment came to up the ante. Strictly choreographed, the dancers/models responded in kind.
The show started with a play and ended with pure epic theatre, proving that individual talent can meld brilliantly in abundant directions.
Eclecticism is commonly frowned upon in our culture, thinking it “too clever by half”. The ambition displayed by the ‘Crossing Boundaries’ show won’t work, the cynics insist. There seem to be plenty of those taking up office space at Birmingham’s media outlets right now.
Despite its apparent multi-culturalism, the UK has developed an attitude of late that you have to be one thing or another when it comes to artistic expression. Pigeon-holing is a national pastime and it is unremittingly dull. Look out of the window, walk the streets. There is a world of variety out there. Embrace it, and more importantly, get it into your skull.