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BRIGHTON FRINGE: The Odditorium: Chanctonbury Ring – Brighton Spiegeltent

Reviewer: Simon Topping

Presented By: Dr David Bramwell

Based on their Ghost Box Album, Chanctonbury Rings, is a live performance by Justin Hopper(writer and narrator), Sharron Kraus (music) and Wendy Pye (live mixed visuals). 

The performance is brought to you by Dr David Bramwell (fun fact: David is not actually a doctor at all). Bramwell is the founder of The Catalyst Club in Brighton; a spoken word monthly evening which brings together three guest speakers each time, who talk about a wide and diverse range of topics of interest to them.  The Club turns seventeen next month and has a loyal local following. 

Bramwell is a one-man cottage industry, presenting programmes for BBC Radio 3 and 4.. He won a Sony Award for his BBC Radio 3 programme, The Haunted Moustache and is also the author of several books, including The No9 Bus to Utopia, The Haunted Moustache and The Odditorium, from which the evening takes it’s name. 

The foundation of tonight’s material comes from Hopper’s 2017 book, The Old Weird Albion. Part family history, part travelogue, part exploration of mythical England, Hopper explores his life and relationship with the South Downs in a number of poetical and intimate essays.  

Here the essence of the book, focusing on the Chanctonbury Rings, is brought to an audience as a multimedia performance in a blend of folk, electronic music, poetry, prose and environmental soundscapes along with eerie film and beautifully shot Sussex countryside.  . 

Electro-acoustic soundscapes and folk songs interweave with the richly lyrical narration as the crowd are taken away into a world that feels ancient and mystic. 

We learn of Hopper’s English grandmother who first brought him to The Downs and shared fascinating tales of distant folklore, telling of how the Devil, in a bet with a local man, tried to carve out the hills in order to flood and destroy Sussex.  His grandma haunts him at Chanctonbury too, floating above the ground in an unearthly spectre in the mist.  

Further stories of encounters with Morris Dancers and his experience of astral projection all go to cement the reputation the area has for being a supernatural and holy place. 

Krauss expertly loops the sound to build up multi-layered ethereal songs.  The interesting instrumentation varies from futurist sounding synths to the more traditional bowed dulcimer, recorder and ringing bowl.  Her music mixes perfectly with the spoken word and really shines when she has a few folk pieces she sings along to. 

The imagery, shot by Pye, adds to the ghostly nature of the piece well and shows off how beautiful, mystical and sometimes sinister the Sussex countryside truly is. 

This one off performance is a fabulous slice of storytelling, wonderfully told by the ensemble. 

Reviewed on 29th  June  

 

 

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