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Bern:Ballett "Witch Hunt" ("Hexenhatz")


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Well, the Berner Zeitung has reviewed Cathy's first night.  My imperfect German makes it out as a middling review, not a huge surprise as the local critics have never really warmed to her narrative approach, and they may be much happier with the more Euro-contemporary regime likely to be in place after she leaves this summer.  However, the first comments under the review appear more supportive. ( And I'll be looking forward next month to the highly erotic pdd mentioned, knowing that Cathy can lay these on like few others!)

 

http://www.bernerzeitung.ch/kultur/theater/Die-letzte-weissgewaschene-Hexe/story/18599022

 

I've also found a short TV trailer for the piece, with a voice-to-camera by Cathy:

 

http://www.art-tv.ch/9965-0-Konzert-Theater-Bern-Hexenhatz.html

 

Unfortunately, I understand that the cost of bringing Camerata Bern to London for live accompaniment next month has ruled that out, so we will have a recorded score in the Linbury - some very familiar bits in the clip!  And I'm assuming that the spoken text will be in English over here.

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  • 4 weeks later...

From Twitter:  Cathy Marston will be interviewed on Woman's Hour tomorrow, Monday, about Witch Hunt - which starts at the Linbury on Wednesday and runs till Saturday.  So BBC Radio 4 tomorrow, at some time after 10 am. 

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From Twitter:  Cathy Marston will be interviewed on Woman's Hour tomorrow, Monday, about Witch Hunt - which starts at the Linbury on Wednesday and runs till Saturday.  So BBC Radio 4 tomorrow, at some time after 10 am. 

About 10 minutes in to the programme

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Margaret:  Yes, indeed - and I thought Cathy provided a very full explanation of her approach.  I'll be interested to see how using an actress (Mona Kloos) as the 'modern' Anna-Miggeli, questioning how today's Switzerland can judge what happened some 200 years ago in exonerating Anna Goeldi, helps in carrying forward a dark story.  (The text here will be Edward Kemp's English original, translated to German for use in Bern!)  For anyone who missed the interview, the basic historical position comes out here in this 2007 BBC News piece:

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/7003128.stm

 

I'm assuming that the cast here will be as for the premiere in Bern.  If so, that means that Clemmie Sveeas, guesting for this production and fairly well known to London audiences, will dance the Anna Goeldi role.  And Paula Alonso, whom I recall as an excellent Juliet in Cathy's small-scale 2009 version in Bern, has also returned to dance the role of the young Anna-Miggeli.  And with Martina Langmann as the Mother, Frau Tchudi, the female leads should be particularly strong.  I've just had another look at the Swiss TV piece, link at post 2, to whet my appetite .... not that it needs it.

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Witch-hunt opens this evening, and I was lucky enough to be at the rehearsal last night. Here are a sample of pics. Fascinating piece - well worth catching in my opinion

 



8786019746_c3cc19e9a2_z.jpg
Cathy Marston's 'Witch-hunt' for Bern Ballett (Paula Alonso and Clemmie Sveaas)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr


8779396249_7b623b13ab_z.jpg
Cathy Marston's 'Witch-hunt' for Bern Ballett (Clemmie Sveaas)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr


8779381079_1d732e49d9_z.jpg
Cathy Marston's 'Witch-hunt' for Bern Ballett (Mona Kloos, Franklyn Lee, Clemmie Sveaas, Paula Alonso)
© Dave Morgan. Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr



See more...

Set from DanceTabs - Bern Ballett: Witch-hunt (Cathy Marston)
Courtesy of DanceTabs / Flickr

By kind Permission Cathy Marston

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Can I just say briefly for now that it was well worth the wait - and I was far from alone in thinking that in a packed Linbury Studio earlier tonight.  The piece is set in an institution of some sort, where an older Annamiggeli, spoken by Mona Kloos, challenges the audience and all around to ask how we/they can change the past through the exoneration of Anna Goeldi that was announced in 2008.  As she does so, she stirs memories of what she says she saw and felt 200 years ago and these are danced out by a strong cast.  The three female leads are as powerful as I anticipated, and the whole thing is intelligently framed and performed.  If you can get to London between now and Saturday evening, this would be a most worthwhile way to pass 75 minutes.  I now look forward to a second viewing on Saturday evening.

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When Cathy ceases to be Director in a few weeks time, she (plus husband and daughter) will remain in Bern and she plans to operate as a freelance choreographer from there.  In that regard, she has been working for some weeks with the ballet company in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on a version of Orpheus, set to the Stravinsky score, and due to open next month.  She also has commissions in Copenhagen and Edinburgh/Aberdeen later in the summer ... and I think there's a further Gelsenkirchen one a bit further along.  She mentioned most of this in her BBC4 radio interview (post 7, above) and there's a bit in the Witch Hunt programme.

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With rain here having stopped play outside, I've been having another look through Dave Morgan's excellent Flickr set of photos from Witch Hunt, ( #8 above), using them to stir memories from last night's opening performance.  Early reviews in the Evening Standard and The Stage rightly give prominence to the performances of Clemmie Sveaas as the maid/witch, Anna Goeldi, and Paula Alonso as the 8-year old daughter (Annamiggeli) in the Tschudi family for which Anna works.  The interplay between these two is central to the story as it was Annamiggeli who reputedly coughed up the needles and nails that caused Anna to be branded and executed as a witch in1782.  A relationship that began as supremely trusting and friendly (photos 4-6) is destroyed after the needles appear.  It's also worth saying that some incidents are repeated as the older Annamiggeli (Actress Mona Kloos) delves ever more deeply into her memories (see photos 5 and 16), with some progressing a little further each time.  I recall that to be particularly so about the potential attraction between Dr Tschudi (Franklyn Lee) and Anna, with the earlier hints culminating in a full-blown pas-de-deux towards the end, when a horrified Annamiggeli happens upon the couple in flagrante (photos 24-27).  (For The Stage, Sarah Wilkinson describes this as "one of the most successfully choreographed, physically plausible, dance-sex sequences I have seen.")  After seeing this, you may never hear Vivaldi's Four Seasons in quite the same way again.  (The selection of baroque works used throughout works very well, and was recorded by the noted Early Music ensemble, Camerata Bern, who accompany live in Bern.)

 

But can I please say some words in praise of Martina Langmann's icy characterisation as Frau Tschudi?  We see 5 surviving children portrayed here but there were others, and Cathy has chosen to portray the Mother as a woman exhausted and now incapable of intimacy.  (This is clear in almost all family scenes where she stands remote from the action or in poses in which she adopts very defensive body language - photos 4-6, 15, 21, 23.)  In such circumstances, her husband might well have entered a relationship with the young and attractive Anna, and it appears to have been a fear of this becoming public that led to the witchcraft accusations.  It thus seems to me that the Mother becomes vital to the context of the story playing out.  Martina carries the character rigorously, and it was a delight to see her finally smile during the curtain calls.  (She was a steely Lady Capulet in Cathy's Juliet and Romeo in Bern in 2009, by the way.)

 

Lastly, more praise for Mona Kloos, speaking Edward Kemp's text as the 'modern' adult Annamiggeli, indignantly asking why those who were not there 200 years ago can now be so sure that her evidence must have been fabricated.  As she interrogates her memory, she repeatedly says "She (Anna) was not one of us" yet, at the end, when saying that all her own children have gone, she feels forced to admit "All I have is this witch!"

 

I look forward to seeing it again on Saturday.

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Does anyone know what Cathy Marston is doing after she leaves Bern?

 

I asked Cathy this question in our recent interview - and in with the answer are some useful (hopefully) links as well:

http://dancetabs.com/2013/05/cathy-marston-choreographer-and-company-director/

 

For the most part the iv was about Witch-hunt

(and which I hope more people go see)

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I've been mulling over last night's performance which was warmly received with loud cheers (especially for Clemmie) and several people standing to applaud. I don't think that I have seen anything like this before: a narrative piece danced in a contemporary style, and with the addition of a narrator. There was much that was inventive: the asylum/institutional setting; the spare but versatile set and the milk motif - there were two highly evocative scenes where the glasses of milk looked like candles being carried around and later set on the floor creating the impression of candles in a church. The narrator was really good and I liked the inclusion of the odd German word. I also liked the way that the beginning of the story was repeated twice with further details being added each time. There were some strange stylistic tics which I didn't understand and I didn't think that the dancers had the physical technique, power and presence of, say, the Rambert dancers or the dancers in the UK ballet companies in contemporary pieces such as MacGregor, Kilian, Van Manen etc. Cathy certainly has an unusual voice and I don't know anyone doing anything like her, but I've not seen much other than the full-length classics, Ashton, MacMillan, Balanchine etc. It's hard to know where she would fit in, if she's not wanted by the RB (I'm pleased to see that she has quite a lot of commissions lined up). I wonder whether some of the smaller American companies who don't do much narrative work would be interested in her, particularly as her work doesn't require million pound budgets for sets and special effects? Anyway, it was a very absorbing piece which will stay long in the memory.

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I saw the closing performance on Saturday night - it was, if anything, even more physical than the opener on Wednesday, as if the dancers had overcome any unfamiliarity with their surroundings and were able to release themselves to the full.  This Witch Hunt has never been far from my mind these last days as I savour little moments of craft from my memory -  a touch here, a glance there - and I really don't expect to see anything more theatrically satisfying this year.  (Perhaps I don't get out as much as I might!) Cathy's latest collaboration with dramaturg Edward Kemp - there have been many before now - must be the most productive in that regard, and I was delighted to see Luke Jennings remark on this in his Observer review yesterday.  I really would love to hear more about the practicalities of such collaborations, given the particular challenges that arise in relating narrative through movement.  (Nor would I wish to dispute the comparison Luke Jennings made with some recent Royal Ballet projects.  It long ago passed my understanding that Cathy was never offered a RB commission during or just after her Residency at the ROH, but that water has long since gone under the bridge and I've little doubt that her six years as Director in Bern must have given her a breadth of artistic and managerial experience that she will benefit from in years to come.)  

 

So once again I offer my thanks.  To Clemmie Sveeas for an Anna who was at times sensuous, never more so than in the final pdd with Dr Tschudi, and at others frightened or frightening.  To Paula Alonso for her remarkable young Annamiggeli, moving repeatedly from playful to horrified, and who had the same drained look in her eyes at the calls on Saturday that I remember from her Juliet in Bern some four years ago.  To Martina Langmann, for the difficult characterisation demanded of her as a distinctly unhappy Frau Tshcudi and who I feel had to demonstrate so much of the craft to which I've referred when on the edge of the action.  I'm sure we saw her true self in the additional little bow she slipped in to end the curtain calls!  To Mona Kloos, who tackled the audience and contemporary views head on as the older Annamiggeli and who, by the close, was effectively another dancer.  I will remember her final despairing words as she embraced Anna for a long time - accepting that, despite her harangue, she is forever linked to 'that witch!' who was then able to bang down a door and enter the freedom that the 21st Century has granted her.  To Franklyn Lee for his Dr Tshcudi, of whom I was more aware on Saturday, effectively estranged from his wife and thus open to the attractions of a maid playing with his daughter.  And lastly, to the other dancers of the company, all essential to the narrative in depicting nurses, family, or enraged citizenry.  I hope that all have returned to Bern feeling that their visit to London was successful, and I wish them well for the remaining performances over there to complete the run.

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Ian, what is the relationship between Clemmie and Bern Ballet? I assume that she is a freelance dancer and was engaged just for this production. I believe that she went to my dd's ballet school (quite a few years ago now).

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I just hope we get to see ANYthing by Cathy in London, in the near future. I have always got a lot out of her work - even if sometimes not fully comprehending (more my literary ignorance than anything else). Witch-hunt probably my fave though - perhaps I have gotten the hang of her choreographic language, as I really 'got' this as far as the story went, so could then enjoy the choreography that drove the plot on.

 

Bravi Cathy!

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Dave:  As I'm sure you know, I'm entirely with you in that wish!

 

Aileen: Clemmie Sveeas (like Paula Alonso) was a guest with the Company for this production.  She has worked with Cathy before, most notably for me in the renowned Ghosts, based on the Ibsen tale, that was Cathy's last ROH Residency piece in 2005.  (As you may have gathered from my remarks, Paula was a member of the Bern company for some years.)  If you German is up to it, or you use Google Translate or somesuch, Company bios are here:

 

http://www.konzerttheaterbern.ch/tanz/ensemble/

 

Simply highlight a dancer's name on the left and up comes a reasonably detailed bio.

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  • 4 weeks later...

In Bern tonight, Cathy Marston’s Bern Ballett presents the final performance of Hexenhatz, the production that the Company brought to London last month as Witch Hunt.  The two performances that I saw remain fresh in my memory and I have often found myself drawn back to Dave Morgan’s gallery here to retrace the action.  I confess to being ambivalent about our present-day need to apologise for misdeeds in the distant past when there is nobody from that time from whom we can seek restitution or forgiveness, so the first words spoken by the ‘modern’ Annamiggeli – “The dead …. are done” – have some resonance with me as they set the scene for what follows.  It continues to strike me as a compelling and intelligent piece of theatre, one I am likely to polish in memory for years to come.

 

Tonight also brings to a close Cathy’s six-year tenure as Artistic Director of the Bern company, where some years previously she had been a dancer.  I’d say that she has a good deal of which to be proud – not least that there is a company to hand on.  Not long after arriving in 2007 she found a proposal on the table that the company should close to balance the Stadttheater’s books and she led a very public, and ultimately successful, campaign to keep it going.  Her commissioning policy for new work, some 30 ballets in all, and imported pieces by other contemporary choreographers can stand comparison with that anywhere.  She has raised the Company’s international profile - the three visits to London (2009/11/13) under her leadership were its first outside Switzerland.  Musically, she’s eclectic - whilst Hexenhatz was accompanied by Camerata Bern, her second collaboration with one of Europe’s leading Early Music ensembles, other work has used a local rock band and a local beatbox artiste, and her 2011 Ein Wintersnachtstraum mixed elements of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream with bits of Gabriel Prokofiev’s Turntable Concerto.  Of her own work that I’ve been able to see there, I would dearly like to see her 2009 Julia und Romeo again, ideally recreated on a UK company – and I’m sure there are others that I’ve missed!

 

Life goes on, however, and she plans to freelance from Bern.  Her first commission, Orpheus, using the Stravinsky score, opens in Gelsenkirchen on Sunday, with others to follow over the summer in Copenhagen and Scotland.  I have little doubt that she’ll be kept busy, and still less that her experience and achievements over the past six years should one day commend her as the Director of another company – hopefully back here. 

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