Marc Almond channels love and death in Ten Plagues at Wilton’s Music Hall
Performed by former Soft Cell singer Marc Almond, writer Mark Ravenhill and composer Conor Mitchell’s song cycle about the 1665 London Plague (and by extension the ‘gay plague’, as Aids was initially known in some quarters) won a Festival First when it debuted in Edinburgh in 2011.
Now relocated to the gorgeously distressed East End music hall Wilton’s, it may have found its ideal home, the venue’s scruffy opulence being perfectly matched to the dirty glamour of the haunted, disease-ridden world described by Almond’s narrator.
Almond isn’t the greatest actor and he doesn’t always demonstrate the mastery of vocal technique required to get the most out of Ravenhill’s libretto, especially at first when he’s setting the scene to Mitchell’s on-stage piano accompaniment. But something magical happens a few numbers in when the music briefly veers off into more velvety, torch song territory – Tainted Love à la Schubert – and Almond is joined by a hallucinatory projection of an actor doing some sort of ‘Alas, poor Yorick’ routine. The feverish lament to desire and death that follows in Hester Chillingworth’s evocative, minimalist staging lacks variety but hits some huge emotional notes.
In its final moments, Almond gets to show off his pop stardom-honed microphone technique as he belts out the life-affirming line ‘Sing the song’ and variations thereof – not the cleverest or most intricate words Ravenhill will ever pen but hard to resist when there’s a sudden choral swell all around you in the auditorium.
Until May 18, Wilton’s. www.wiltons.org.uk
Haunting Spirit Photography from the Age Before Photoshop
There is nothing new under the sun: the history of the photo editing is almost as old as photography itself. Spirit photography was first widely employed by William H. Mumler in the 1860s, but the earliest pieces were made by Sir David Brewster for his 1856 book The Stereoscope: Its History, Theory, and Construction. Even though he was using the simple double exposure technique and was revealed as a fraud, some other spirit photographers came up in the next decades. Here are some of the most interesting pieces of spirit photography before Photoshop.
Egyptians grab ancient land of the pharaohs to bury their dead -
Archaeologists fear for pyramid sites as illegal building gathers pace in wake of Arab spring
Feed Me to the Wind -
Across Britain, cremation ashes remain uncollected. Amanda Mitchinson investigates why.
Clues to the Thirty Years’ War: Mass Grave Begins Revealing Soldiers’ Secrets
It was one of the bloodiest battles of the Thirty Years’ War, but until recently there was no trace of those who died there. Now a mass grave is shedding light on the mysteries of the Battle of Lützen. Were those who fought hungry young men or well-fed veterans? And where did they come from?
The morning of November 16, 1632 was foggy, so the mass killing could only begin after some delay. It wasn’t until midday that the mist cleared, finally allowing the Protestant army of Sweden’s King Gustav II Adolf to attack the Roman Catholic Habsburg imperial army led by Albrecht von Wallenstein. The slaughter lasted for hours in the field at the Saxon town of Lützen.
(Source: Speigel Online)
Buried alive: the premature obituaries -
Stephen Moss: Geoge Soros may have been surprised to read the report of his death, but he joins a proud tradition of people erroneously killed off by the media
(Source: The Guardian)
Letter from Africa: Rites of the dead -
In our series of letters from African journalists, Sola Odunfa in Lagos pays his last respects.
I love funerals.
It is the only ceremony I know which confronts human beings with the stark reality of the transient nature of the individual and witnesses to the “great leveller”.
When I sit at a funeral I look at the sealed coffin.
I think of the body inside - former king or common citizen - and how it has become a decomposed or decomposing mass of tissue and bones which must be put deep inside earth or burnt to ashes for the sake of the living.
Power or position has nothing to do with it.
The “great leveller” has wrenched from the body that - call it spirit or soul - which qualified it to be regarded as a person.
The spirit-person has flown away.
To where - purgatory, hell, paradise or even another territory?
I keep wondering, but I am not in a hurry to find out personally.
Every culture has its answer.
(Source: BBC News)
Turns out Richard was not the only one buried here... -
When archaeologists discovered the remains of Richard III last summer, they also stumbled across a second exciting find.A 600-year-old, lead-lined stone coffin was discovered buried near the…
Why Didn't My Richard III Come Gift Wrapped? -
It seems there has never been a better time to head outside and start digging up your local car park. Since the bones of Richard III were exhumed in Leicester last summer, archaeology has become more exciting than even two decades of Channel 4’s Time Team could have dreamed.
(Source: Huffington Post)
Escaping the train to Auschwitz
On 19 April 1943, a train carrying 1,631 Jews set off from a Nazi detention camp in Belgium for the gas chambers of Auschwitz. But resistance fighters stopped the train. One boy who jumped to freedom that night retains vivid memories, 70 years later.
In February 1943, 11-year-old Simon Gronowski was sitting down for breakfast with his mother and sister in their Brussels hiding place when two Gestapo agents burst in.
They were taken to the Nazis’ notorious headquarters on the prestigious Avenue Louise, used as a prison for Jews and torture chamber for members of the resistance.
Today, Gronowski lives a two-minute walk from this building, where he was held for two nights without food or water.
“My parents had made a mistake - only one, but a serious one, which was… to have been born Jewish - a crime that, at the time, could only be punished by death,” he says.
(Source: BBC News)
Lockerbie bombing: Pan Am 103 returned to Scotland
ONE of Scotland’s most visited museums hopes its bid to display aircraft wreckage from the Lockerbie bombing will be boosted by the remains of Pan Am flight 103 being moved north of the Border.
The Crown Office yesterday confirmed the wreckage had been moved from an Air Accidents Investigation Branch hangar in Hampshire to a storage facility near Dumfries.
The investigation into the 1988 attack, in which 270 people were killed, is ongoing, although Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence agent convicted of the bombing, died last year.
The Riverside Museum in Glasgow, which attracts more than a million visitors a year, is seeking part of the wreckage to add to its permanent display about the disaster, which was developed with the victims’ families.
A source said: “We continue to hope some of the fuselage will be made available to help us to tell this important story.”
Museum officials have previously told The Scotsman they were seeking “something which is identifiably part of the aircraft rather than just a piece of metal”, such as a seat or one of the black boxes.
Curators have previously said: “We want items that tell a story, such as a piece of fuselage which shows blast damage, or something which illustrates the forensic investigation.”
Ghanaians ban 'spirit child' killing -
Local leaders in northern Ghana have announced the abolition of the ritual killing of babies born with physical disabilities, who were believed to have been possessed by evil spirits.
“Spirit children” were thought to have been a sign of impending misfortune and given a poisonous drink to kill them.
One campaigner told the BBC that improved healthcare and education meant such beliefs were becoming less common.
Activist Raymond Ayine welcomed the ban, which covers seven towns.
But he said he could not guarantee that the practice had been eradicated from the whole country.
The BBC’s Vera Kwakofi says the Kasena-Nankana region, where the ban has been announced, is the part of Ghana where such beliefs are most widespread.
Sometimes, babies born at the same time as a family misfortune were also accused of being “spirit children” and killed.
The “concoction men” who used to give the children the poisonous drink have been given new roles; they will now work with disabled children to promote their rights.
(Source: BBC News)
Poland’s Jews: A forgotten history
Poland is marking the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on Friday, one of the most remarkable acts of resistance in World War II, a period when the almost 1,000-year-old history of Polish-Jewish relations underwent its most severe test.
How Poles and Jews behaved toward each other during 1939-1945 is still being evaluated and remains highly provocative here.
This was clearly seen last November with the premiere of the movie Poklosie (“Aftermath”), a fictional thriller that told the story of a Polish man who returns to his hometown and discovers a dark secret about its past.
During the war, at the instigation of the Nazis, local people, including his own father, rounded up the town’s Jews, locked them in a building and set it on fire.
In the last 10 years or so it has become widely known that massacres like this actually happened in several Polish towns, most notably in Jedwabne, north-eastern Poland, where Poles at the instigation of the Nazis murdered more than 300 Jews.
(Source: BBC News)