Three Tales

Toby Jones 19 February 2010

ADC Lateshow – 11.00pm Wed 17th-Sat 20th February 2010


Never did I think that I might sit through an hour of minimalist music and enjoy it. Yet somehow this was one of the most enjoyable and exciting musical performances I have ever seen. My arse was glued to my seat and my eyes to the stage from start to finish while my heart raced. I was utterly gripped. A ‘video opera,’ might sound to most of you like a pile of wank, but it’s not: it’s brilliant, utterly, totally, undeniably brilliant. This is an art form that I must admit I had no prior knowledge of but has totally blown me away. See it. You will regret missing it.

The ‘opera,’ if you can call it that; it seemed more an art installation than anything else, follows three stories: the Hindenburg disaster, the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll and the cloning of Dolly the sheep concluding with a discussion on the boundaries and responsibilities of modern science. The discussion, fragmented and disjointed, that played throughout Steve Reich’s eerie and threatening music, was genuinely thought-provoking although considering its unusual medium is, I think, of secondary importance. What is important is that Nick Sutcliffe has taken a medium of art that I suspect has never been seen on the ADC stage before and triumphed.

Sutcliffe has demonstrated a really extraordinary talent conducting a chamber orchestra and singers in time to piece of film with its own soundtrack with what seems, to the untrained ear, extraordinary precision. The music was moving, poetic and spine chilling all at the right moments. The musicians were exceptional and the singers beautiful. The music with its chromatic although atmospheric tones is, however, hardly easy listening and may not be enjoyed.

By the time the hour was up, I was exhausted; it was one of the most intense experiences I have had without moving from my chair. Some may feel the experience is just too overwhelming, too demanding. There may be those who have problems with what they think the documentary is trying to portray, I for one had problems with its scaremongering ‘dangers of science’ message.

Yet whatever your taste I challenge anyone not to be gripped throughout. This production really is not to be missed.

Toby Jones