Almeida Festival – No Arrival, No Parking, Navigation Part III

Heiner Goebbels
No Arrival, No Parking, Navigation Part III

Sound City Ensemble

Heiner Goebbels – director
Klaus Grunberg – lighting design
Paul Bull – sound designer

Commissioned and produced by LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) in collaboration with Almeida Opera

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 25 June, 2001
Venue: Almeida at King’s Cross, London

Heiner Goebbels has long been unpredictable and, as the scintillating production of Black on White at the Barbican in 1999 demonstrated, gripping and provocative in his musico-theatrical imagery. No Arrival, No Parking promised to launch this year’s Almeida opera season with a bang. Developed over an 18-month period by the composer and 21 London-based musicians from all walks of musical life, the intention was to bring out, in the words of the programme-book, “the sense of restless urban movement that informs the dynamics of the project”.

What resulted was a continuous sequence of auditory and visual images playing for 70 minutes – diverting, occasionally absorbing, but hardly enthralling in the sense of the “democracy of sound and music experience” intended. Part of the problem lay in the fact that the types of musician involved rarely seemed to coalesce into something more inclusive or spontaneous. The acoustic players were predominantly situated at stage right, rhythm percussionists to their rear; DJs with accompanying turntables and electronica at centre-stage; bass guitarist and Celtic folk-singer/clarsach player at stage left, keyboardists behind them to the right – all contributed to a stylistically varied and visually eventful performance, while never threatening to become more than the sum of its parts. Extracts from Heiner Muller’s rambling poem Landscapes With Argonauts hardly functioned as a motivating or unifying presence.

There were some positive aspects to the evening – the quality of London’s musical twenty-somethings across the musical spectrum, and the discipline and dedication with which they geared their contributions towards the greater whole. Yet that more potent synthesis was not forthcoming. Worth the attempt, but a true coming-together of cultural, artistic and social ’non-definability’ has yet to explode into the future.

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