As the light fell, the huge burning torches outside the Ashmolean seemed like some sort of bizarre ancient cult’s worship ritual. Hushed people gathered outside its huge, pillar-flanked doors and there was an air of secrecy; as more and more people arrived, it felt like the worst kept secret in Oxford. One Friday every month, the Ashmolean opens past closing time for LiveFriday. Curated by an ex-President of OUDS, Lucie Dawkins, the whole museum is filled with performances, artsy craftsy activities and cinema. This month’s theme was ‘The Art of Theatre’.
People ought to be forgiven for fearing that a ‘Paper Cinema’ or ‘Theatre Design Workshop’ might be a bit wanky, but do get past your initial skepticism because it’s really great. The Paper Cinema especially – they performed Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘King Pest’ by using cut outs of drawings and a projector. It was far from being as amateur as it sounds and the drawings were perfect, villainous noses and bony fingers set to a soundtrack of acoustic guitar and sound effects. The whole concept is quite fascinating: the artists sit in front of the projector so you can see them in action, wiggling their fingers to create shadow and waving pieces of paper about. As a fusion of cinema and drawing, it can do things that conventional performance art cannot; after watching for 5 minutes and almost believing that the drawings were real people, the artists turned them round to reveal their 2 dimensional, papery selves, and suddenly they became drawings again. It was wonderful as a performance, but even more interesting as a concept, since you can see both the end product and the creating of it all at once.
There were hundreds of people milling around three floors and it felt quite like a real life, grown-up version of Night at the Museum. It acts as a platform for advertising upcoming shows – The Producers, running next week, performed several songs, and Royal Court Young Writer Carla Kingham directed her piece in an upstairs room surrounded by Italian Renaissance paintings. All sorts of musicians perform later in the night and, among others, this month saw Count Drachma (including part of the Stornoway line-up), The Donut Kings (one of Oxford’s “best-loved jazz bands”) and Zander Sharp, a folky singer-songwriter.
Considering ‘The Art of Theatre’ was the theme, LiveFriday showed a true range of stuff to do – mask-making, a ‘dress-up photo booth’ and butterfly puppet workshop. For those of you who prefer to sit and ingest rather than stand up and do things, the Oxford Imps performed in the café and the BeatRoots in the Islamic Middle East section. There was so much more going on as well, so do go next month, even if its just to buy a drink and wander around.
Free admission, 7-10.30pm on specific Fridays