December 17, 2018

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Review: The Pain of Desire

Multi-disciplinary artist Wendy Bevan and her band Temper Temper are impressively committed to delivering a powerful, atmospheric performance. Playing at Summerhall as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe, their show, The Pain of Desire is an entrancing mix of theatre, music and video work. Even before we entered the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, the show began, as a mysterious and sincere looking man greeted audience members and thanked them for coming, all with the gravitas of a funeral director. Suddenly, we were commanded to silence and invited to enter the hall, where a rhythm was slowly building from the enigmatic band.

Carefully and purposefully making her way to centre stage, Bevan – as alter ego Olga – was dressed in a floor length black gown, with huge gold bangles, necklace and heavily made up eyes appearing to pay homage to silent cinema stars and suggested a glamorous yet exquisite melancholy. With fantastic control and elegance, Bevan held the gaze of the audience with an intensity that was almost unbearable, and then she began to sing. Demonstrating a remarkable range, Bevan’s vocals evoke the despair of great loss and longing, lyrically weaving tales of memory, love and betrayal, her performance never faltering from the tragic character she has created.

Known primarily as a photographer, Bevan developed Temper Temper as a way to explore the possibilities of Olga, the femme fatale, seductive and intoxicating, as an element of an equally evocative band. Having created countless startling images, suggestive of theatre, performance, costume and glamour, Bevan’s work as a fashion photographer seems to have lead quite organically into the collaborative project, The Pain of Desire, which was first an exhibition in London with soundtrack by the band.

Temper Temper are comprised of Seiriol Davies on Piano, Christos Faranas on Keyboard, Loops, Effects and Drums, and Jonny Martin on Bass Guitar, Elbow Bass and Board Weevil. Building a soundscape of jumping piano, rhythmic jazz infused bass lines and sometimes thrashing percussion, they provide a sonic complexity to perfectly match Bevan’s sometimes-operatic vocal performance.

Combined with this were visuals also developed and directed by Bevan, that were a combination of original, quite elemental imagery and archive footage from silent cinema. These provided another effective addition to the dramatic mood and the sense of a narratively ambiguous show. One criticism however, is that as the visuals were projected on the high ceiling of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre I did become frustrated with having to look up and take my eyes off the entrancing Olga. Whether due to technical or artistic reasons, the huge expanse of white wall behind the musicians did seem like a wasted opportunity for incorporating more seamlessly the audio and visual elements of the show. This is more a criticism of the venue however, as despite the obvious allure of the historically fascinating and aesthetically pleasing old class rooms, I can’t help thinking that Summerhall could perhaps do with some more adjustments to transform Lecture Theatres into theatres proper. If plunged into the true darkness of a stage or club, I wonder what further dramatic effect The Pain of Desire could have.

3rd – 18th August

The Anatomy Lecture Theatre, Summerhall

Show starts at 21:45

Tickets, £10/£8

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