Mediva: A Dance To The Music Of Time

The Capstone Theatre
2nd October 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Once in a while something of a rarity comes to town. Tonight it was a group of medieval-styled performers showcasing pieces from the 12th - 15th Centuries. it turned out to be an engrossing show.

Internationally acclaimed Mediva play on instruments that do not usually get much of a collective outing on stage. Ann Allen leads the group on shawm, recorder and also dances. Emily Askew adds support to the above, as well as fiddle and bagpipe accompaniment. It fell to Sophie Brumfitt to provide voice and more dance, while Tim Garside's attenuated array of struck, rattled or tapped instruments added depth to each composition.

The evening started in pre-Renaissance England where music predominated and dance was not yet in common currency. By the time of 'The Robertsbridge Codex' (C14th), it was evolving from out of the monastry and starting to incorporate ideas brought back from the Crusades.

France, with it's blossoming troubadour traditions, introduced another element to the mix as people began to be communally entranced by being able to join in the May Day revels or early Carol dances. 'La Huitime Estampie (Manuscript du Roi, C13th)' is a good example.

On then to Spain, and the influence of pilgrimages were now added to the equation. Montserrat and it's Black Madonna was an important destination and is remembered in the C14th 'Lilibre Vermell de Montserrat' which brought Moorish elements to be reflected on.

Italy was the showcase of the second half. It was also where Sophie Brumfitt added her voice and 'Istampitta' became the new vogue across the city states of the Renaissance period. By now dancers and musicians alike were adding Arabic influences and collective holding of hands while performing circular movements or flowing wave-like lines of exuberance were set free - as demonstrated in the auditorium tonight.

It was only by the C15th that choreographed song, dance and music began to gel and a single melodic line indicated the direction of polyphonic development. By the end, a duet replete with full contemporary costume dresses brought the evening of artistic development to an impressive conclusion.

Translate it if you can, but de Pesaro's 'De practica sev arte tripudii vulgare oposculum' heralds the transition to today's sexually writhing pop stars; but no-one on stage can be blamed for that.

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