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Love is all you need: The Island @cervantesthtr

A drama set on the seventh floor of a non-descript hospital waiting room may not be everyone's idea of a great night at the theatre. But love and all other forms of the human condition are dissected in Juan Carlos Rubio's The Island. Translated by Tim Gutteridge, it feels like everything is up for grabs. What is love? Is it a bond between two women with a fifteen-year age gap? Is it the love between a mother and her son with a severe unknown disability? A wonderful life full of health and happiness is not always an option on the menu, and the choices may become a bit less palatable. Throughout a series of sometimes banal conversations, what comes out is a story of two women with lives that are separate and together. And while the piece becomes darker on one level as it progresses, it never ceases to fascinate and draw further insights into the couples. It's currently playing at the Cervantes Theatre .  A couple waits in a hospital waiting room for the outcome of an accident

Music: Gergiev's grunting Shostakovich

Last night I caught part of the Shostakovich Symphony cycle, Symphony 1 and 14, that the LSO is performing with conductor Valery Gergiev. Gergiev becomes the LSO's chief conductor next year (when Sir Colin Davis becomes the President)

Anyway, Symphony No 1 is quite accessible and full of loud explosions and power and vigour so it is easy to like. The orchestra obviously had loads of fun playing it.

Given my location in the cheap seats (front row to the side) as the performance was a sellout, I not only had a curious view of the backs of the string section, but also I heard what sounded like strange grunting sounds. At first I thought it was the conductor but then surely not. But throughout the four movements of the First Symphony I could hear it. Was it the bowing of the strings? Well the acoustic from my seat was giving me an interesting flavour of the performance so that was a distinct possibility.

When it came to the second half with the much more subdued Symphony No 14 again I could hear the grunting. Combined with Soprano soloist Olga Sergeeva's dire dress that should have stayed in the alien costume collection from BBC's Dr Who series it was hard to appreciate the music.

The grunting was coming from Gergiev, and so there is a lesson there for seeing future performances with the LSO's next chief conductor: don't sit in the cheap seats unless you like a grunt with your classical music. Further back you might not hear it.  

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