Saturday June 1st was the eleventh in Cafe Reason’s series of Diamond Nights.  Conceived as a platform to share and show experiments and new work it continues to offer the chance to see interesting and experimental pieces in a small theatrical environment.

The evening began with Fabrizia Verrechia performing three pieces of Indian Classical Bharatanatyam dance.  Besides the beautiful, expressive dancing and lovely costume, Fabrizia introduced the audience to a little background information about this traditional form and also some of the meanings of the gestures.  This was interesting in itself and reminded me of the difference there can be in fully appreciating a classical dance form such as ballet and the means used to tell a story compared to a contemporary work. 

Following this Flavia Coube entered the space as a little bent figure, vigorously shaking her hand as she crossed the stage, at times contorting her body and screwing up her face.   Both playful and mysterious this was a very successful third part of Flavia’s triptych exploring the three stages of woman and was greeted by great audience approval.

The first half finished with Fractofusus, a five-strong group of female composer/musicians(Anne L Ryan, Camilla Cantata, Jill Elliott, Trish Elphinstone and Amy Thakurdas).  Three pieces flowed from one to the next and saw them move from experimental instrumental with voice to more subtle whispers and vocalisations evoking the names and sounds of trees.  The last piece used singing bowls and voice.  Their work Making Sound Sense of Trees was both challenging and absorbing with plenty of atmosphere and subtlety.

After the break we saw the third of four films based on the elements by Peter Jones.  This was Water.  Quite mesmerising images of flowing water, light catching ripples and sudden unexpected images of beach, surf or underwater weeds and world were cut to the sounds of bowls and a drum and bass beat, creating a trance like effect.

In the darkness that followed the next act entered beginning with whispers and mouth sounds (Anne L Ryan).  Light gradually came up to reveal toes and fingers moving.  As the body (Jeannie Donald McKim) advanced further in to the light there was silence amplifying the expressiveness of the dance and face.  The voice reappeared, singing this time, carried forward by its body and the dancer continued. Voice and movement perfectly complementing each other in a relationship which ended in an extended stillness – a happy accident of an uncertain lighting cue.

In the next piece a stool and guitar on its stand were brought on stage and then faded from view.  The lights came on at the strum of the guitar to reveal a woman singing.   Lights off.  Lights on and she is facing the other way and wearing different clothes.  Lights off and she is back to how she was.  ‘Do your eyes deceive you?’  she asks. ‘Or your prejudice?’  From here the performer – Patrissia Cuberos – advances and addresses the audience directly explaining how she is creating a bridge between the past and us here in the present telling the story of Malena from the beginning of the last century.  The audience directly asks questions and the story flows.  Disconcerting in her frankness and audience communication, bold and compelling, this was an unusual act including some amazing singing.

The evening was rounded off with a group improvisation by members of Café Reason joined by Fractofusus – a first off collaboration.  As I joined in I have no idea what it looked like for the audience, but we kept it quite short.

In addition to the performers, Diamond Nights also depends on people helping with lights, sound and stage management.  This Diamond Night was supported in this way by Pete, Peter, Martin, Szymon and Majek to whom grateful thanks.  None would be possible without the access to the space itself, thanks to Oxford Brookes

Ana Barbour

4th June 2013