Theatre in Wales

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SOUND AFFAIRS CELEBRATES 20TH BIRTHDAY IN STYLE Described by Photoplay magazine in 1923 as “a hothouse orchid of decadent passion”, Salomé is one of the most extraordinary and bizarre silent films to come out of Hollywood in the 1920s.

Now, in a tour marking the 20th birthday of Cardiff-based Sound Affairs, it is to be screened at five venues across Wales with a new score specially written by Charlie Barber - performed live in dramatic fashion by four percussionists playing from two giant towers flanked on either side of the silver screen.

Adapted from the controversial play of the same name by Oscar Wilde and costing a staggering $350,000 to make, Salomé was produced by and starred the flamboyant Russian actress, Alla Nazimova, one of the most famous stars of her day. Her aim was to create a bold and experimental work that would raise the artistic level of American films.

However before it was even completed the film was surrounded with the whiff of scandal as rumours took hold that Nazimova had insisted on an all gay and bi-sexual cast in honour of Oscar Wilde. Their melodramatic, highly stylised performances added to the film’s notoriety and the major studios refused to touch it. After sitting on a shelf for a year, it received a limited release in 1923, but conservative 1920s audiences weren’t ready for something so different and it flopped, almost bankrupting Nazimova in the process.

In recent years however, Salomé has increasingly been acknowledged as ahead of its time, in many ways, one of the first arthouse films. Designed by Natacha Rambova (the future Mrs Rudolf Valentino) the extravagant costumes and striking art nouveau sets, inspired by Aubrey Beardsley’s black and white illustrations for Wilde’s original text, are visually stunning whilst the forty two year old Nazimova’s performance in the title role is remarkable.

Charlie Barber’s score is inspired by traditional Arabic percussion ensembles with much of the writing based on the fixed rhythmic patterns in Arabic music, many in unusual time units such as 7, 10, 13 or 19. Some 30 instruments will be played during the performance including the Sistra (originating from ancient Egypt) the Djembe (a traditional African drum) and Tibetan singing bowls. A CD of Barber’s score is due to be released by Sound Affairs mid September.
Sound Affairs  
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009back



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