cold calling

Cold Calling: The Arctic Project

Birmingham Rep Studio


COLD calling is a creative collaboration between the CBSO and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

Composer Nick Powell,who has worked in both theatre and television, was commissioned to write this piece, which fuses projection and dialogue with a twenty piece orchestra.

It’s something of misdirection in its title and marketing and it has little to do with the artic or any specific images of it, being more about the bleakness of loss of communication. Jan Pearson

Cold Calling is a term often used for the telephone sales calls that seem to blight our lives everyday with, for instance, claims for PPI insurance or double glazing.

In the work we see short spoken pieces on wrong numbers, broken or misheard conversations, and poor connections. These are delivered by actors Jan Pearson and Waleed Akhtar who represent the very different and opposing aspects of modern day telephone communication.

Actress Jan Pearson. Pictures: Robert Day

Powell’s work draws his principle artic references from his own personal circumstances of loss and birth. With it being composed in a Norwegian winter it’s easy to see how his work is directed to the isolation and cold aspect of both his emotional state and his geography.

Jonathan Bloxahm conducted the twenty piece orchestra and in the setting of the Studio theatre the sound felt limited given the deep aspect of Powell’s visionary ideas.

It’s a very chordal piece opening with simple statements reminiscent of Hans Zimmer but lacking the depth of sound due to the limited numbers of players.

It moves on to aspects of frenetic experimental energy representing what seemed to be the chaos of modern life and the billions of electronic connections. These sections were arpeggio based and much like the work of Philp Glass which repeat in a way with continuing levels of complexity.

The staging featured simple strips of suspended clear or white plastic on to which were projected a series of impressionist and defocused images of wintry effects. The effect was interesting but these were featured in only about a half of the performance and at other times were just plainly lit. Overall there seems to have been scope to visually develop this part of the performance to a greater degree as they greatly contributed to the atmosphere of the work and so were missed when they were gone.

Given its subject Cold Calling, in its 50 minutes running time, has obviously little room for any warmth and with the given limitations of the setting and size of orchestra it’s an interesting concept but at times leaves you a little cold and detached. To 17-09-16

Jeff Grant



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