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Review: Geo Wyeth and Hahn-Bin

Roz Kaveney is impressed by a Soho theatre double bill

Roz Kaveney

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 12:10:06 GMT | Updated 4 years today

It was a night of slightly embarrassing personal revelation - both shows involve too much talk- and a lot of hair gel... Apart from that, though, the double bill at the Soho theatre was amazingly impressive and the two approaches on display to virtuoso performance and things you have never quite seen before went together better than you might express.


After a brief and slightly odd turn as a German performance artist called Pillow Vomit, who blunders blindfold around the stage for a while before turning on a variety of Casios, and philosophising about disgust, Geo Wyeth puts his clothes back on and starts showing off his skills with the Casios, a guitar, a grand piano and an accordion. His songs have intense, if slightly noodling, instrumental backing - think jazz greats like Archie Shepp - and meander through beat poetry and self mythologizing, like a trans queer Harry Chapin who takes his time getting to the point. Along the way some hippy-dippy audience participation - making us share a floating piece of cloth and telling us that it is a tent in which we are all one, making us put our hands up and down, exhaustingly- and a show which at times seems heading to pretentiousness ends up being moving and full of odd inventiveness. Geo Wyeth has the voice, face and tousled hair of a bruised hipster angel.

And then Hahn-Bin (pictured), who announced his own death and rebirth as Amadeus Leopold, both the playful genius Mozart and the hard taskmaster father whose skills underly all that talent. There is an interesting question implicit in the staggering display on offer, a cabaret of encores which almost spoils us with treats of genius; is there room in the mainstream classical music world for a genius so very camp, so very gender-queer, so subversively staggeringly gifted? Along with the quiet brooding of his piano accompanist John Blacklow, the violinist gives us a performance that is a whirlwind of genius we haven't seen since famous violinists like Kreisler and Paganini, along with some pretty accomplished mime work, solidly good in itself but amazing combined with the fiddling.

The first half, broadly speaking, explores the demonic side of the classical violin repertoire and, closely allied with it, the gypsy tradition and - what often goes hand in hand with that - the Jewish tradition - the Danse Macabre, Bartok's Rumanian Dances, the weird solo from Young Frankenstein. The second lighter half explores the violin as voice - bits of Carmen, bits of Porgy and Bess and an amazingly moving performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.


Hahn-Bin's tone sings like a rich human voice and yet they also do things that no voice could ever manage - at one point, in the Sabre Dance, their fingers move faster than the eye can quite grasp, bowing and plucking the strings and striking the side of the violin with the bow. It's at once a display of dexterity and musicality which at one point left this reviewer just going 'bloody hell' at the end of a piece and a piece of OTT camp music theatre that invigorates and breaks the heart. The idea of camp as the lie that tells the truth has never been quite so relevant - this show is an amazing talent devoting themself to entertainment as a way of breaking through the paradox of their position as beautiful fashion icon and great musician.


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