V & A Museum
“a fantastic experience…a performance perfectly tailored to the Hollywood Costume Exhibition. The live foley performances were fascinating and their knowledge of the history of the moving image adds to the experience”.
“lyrical, passionate and searching; impossible to forget”.
(The Arches, Glasgow, 2010)
Dixe Wills, Guardian writer
There’s something wonderfully old school about walking into a cinema and discovering that the score you’re about to hear is to be performed live. The instinctive reaction is to check your pockets for Strand cigarettes and a pension book just in case you’ve injudiciously stepped into a time warp. This is, after all, the Bethnal Green Road, where stranger things happen on a daily basis.
The Cabinet of Living Cinema’s take on this throw-back to the halcyon days of celluloid is one that wanders amiably through the no-man’s-land between the fully-fledged musical ensembles that once lurked in orchestra pits and the single Wurlitzer that emerged all stops blazing from the floor. Thus, the four Cabinet members – the line-up is fluid but it’s always a quartet – took their places on the floor, two to each side of the screen, and braced themselves for the opening credits as the lights went down.
Whirlygig Cinema’s Making Tracks events pitch together a dozen or so short films – the longest tonight is ten minutes, the briefest 27 seconds – by up and coming film-makers. Their original scores are stripped off and, with the vast majority of the films being dialogue-free affairs, the band is free to put its own interpretation of events unfolding above them.
Playing instruments not often heard together – to my knowledge even the thrusting girls and boys of the nu-folk movement haven’t yet experimented with a dulcimer/banjo/viola/swanny whistle combo – and instruments rarely if ever heard at all (toy car and various kitchen implements, anyone?), the Cabinet’s sound has unpredictability on its side.
This is probably just as well, because the films are pretty unpredictable too. Clowns come to life only to have breakdowns; a painter is harassed by his own chair; a farmer’s wife is avenged by a scarecrow. The highlight, however, is a more conventional piece: Gabriela Tropia’s Old House, a beautifully choreographed dance number set in an empty decaying building in Singapore.
Accompanying each miniature drama (some of which, admittedly, prove markedly more watchable than others), the Cabinet’s scores tended to creep up stealthily on the audience until we suddenly became aware that they were driving the action along at a gallop or lulling us craftily into a dream-like state, as appropriate.
There’s a pleasing dollop of Penguin Café Orchestra in there and, if you can imagine a stripped-down Stereolab with added flute, some of that too. The occasional joke is thrown in – when one of the films has a wind chime rattling, a door creaking and a chicken roasting, the appropriate sound effects are tossed into the mix with effortless aplomb. Time signatures career about from one film to the next as if 4:4 had never been invented, and there’s some jungle (the place, not the music) and a trill of jazzy rock thrown in for good measure.
With most of the films being the length of a pop song, by the end of the evening I felt as if I’d listened to a live performance of a concept album, albeit one with a concept dreamt up by a man half crazed by having lemons thrown at him by trained monkeys night and day for six weeks. If only more such albums were on the market, I can’t help feeling the world would be a better place.
(Making Tracks, 5th August 2011, Rich Mix, London)
Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman
It’s the final night of the New Works, New Worlds event at the Arches and it’s good to report that after a subdued start, the annual festival of experimental work – curated by artistic director Suzi Simpson – is beginning to look much more like its feisty, fascinating self…Over in Arch 6, Kieron Maguire and his fellow musicians – on dulcimer, guitar, violin and percussion – simply ravish the audience with their Cabinet Of Living Cinema, which offers some wonderful mid-20th-century short films by Maya Deren, the Brothers Quay, and Andrei Khrjanovsky, which is made even more vivid by a 21st century musical accompaniment. It’s possibly not theatre. But it’s living performance. ****
(Arches, Glasgow, 6 July 2010)
Donald Hutera, The Times
Over four hours I had six gem-like experiences, starting in a pristine white room (for Melanie Wilson’s strange, dreamy The View From Here, in which an audience member has their eyes bandaged before being gently tucked up, with headphones on, in a hospital bed) and ending with a concert by the multi-talented Kieron Maguire and three colleagues from the Cabinet of Living Cinema to accompany screenings of a handful of sensational avant-garde and animated films. ****
(Forest Fringe Microfestival at BAC, London SW1, 8 April 2010)
‘The Cabinet of Living Cinema performance was extraordinary as was the collection of films exhibited. Completely unexpected and brilliant evening.’
– Audience member (Greenhorn Film Festival, 2013)