The Nature of Why – Brighton Festival

This was a truly magical experience!

Having stumbled across The British Paraorchestra’s work late last year on their last visit to Brighton (they’re Bristol based) with a version of Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express, I was eager to see this new production The Nature of Why incorporating as its central theme, the thoughts of Nobel Prize winning, theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.

A new composition for the company and composed by Goldfrapp keyboardist (and also Bristol derived) Will Gregory, this show started, unusually, without seating, but a gathering of the audience in front of conductor Charles Hazelwood to listen to his exploration of the performance theme – “Why, why, why?” and the focus on Feynman as a person obsessive about asking why.

The focus within the performance is on the idea of magnets repelling each other and the processes at work physically there, something developed by the production dancers to unpick this push me-pull you process. Feynman describes the feeling between two magnets: What’s going on? Why are they doing that? How are they doing that?

You could call this a promenade piece in the sense that the audience are invited to become part of the performance, taking their place on stage alongside the orchestra, conductor and dancers to mingle and observe in entirely new surroundings, moving at will and exploring the musical process or as the conductor phrased it – “be all hugger mugger on the stage together”.

This was the most entrancing part of the show, to be physically enveloped in the sound and spectacle, moving through the space on stage with strangers, offering a completely new perspective.

I found myself gazing up at the bespoke lighting for the performance, awash with sound and absolutely captivated by the theatrical nature of the orchestra. It felt liberating to be part of the show and to embrace a new use of the stage area, encouraging a trust between performers and audience.

At certain points, audience members were incorporated into aspects of the dancers’ movement and this lent a light hearted playfulness to the proceedings.

Styling themselves as Re-inventing the Orchestra for the 21st Century,  Paraorchestra and Friends’s mission truly works on so many levels. I’m thrilled by the inventiveness of the group, the desire to push boundaries and change what it is to enter a musical sphere.

The contention is that this ensemble seek to to redefine what an orchestra can be, and under the helm of international conductor Charles Hazelwood, they truly do this.

With only one date in the Brighton Festival this year, this was a standalone event. However the orchestra tours regularly and I really recommend catching up with the somewhere soon. You will be moved and engaged by the experience and I feel very lucky to have encountered them.

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