St James Theatre

The first newly built theatre in London for 30 years held a prior to opening look around yesterday.  It’s impressive and welcoming at the same time.  The curved glass of the main entrance allows you to look into the bar area before you enter, which is useful.  If you want to go straight through into the studio or main theatre there is another entrance to the reception desk.  From here a futuristic staircase made from six tons of Carrera marble curves up into the Brasserie which is run by Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s brother Nicky.   The main theatre has a large stage with wide wrap around very comfortable seating for over 300 people.  There is state of the art technical hardware and software for the staging.   You would expect this from Robert Mackintosh the creative director and CEO and also the other brother of Sir Cameron Mackintosh.  David Gilmore is the artistic director, Lady Lucy French the director of development and Guy Kitchenn is the executive theatre director.  Together they make a powerfully creative bunch of experienced people.  The studio theatre with its own bar has a cabaret late night feel.  Clare Burt and Steph Fearon will perform there as well as Frisky and Mannish, Nina Conti and Abandoman on comedy nights and Carol Grimes and Dorian Ford on jazz nights.  There are lots more names in the pipeline. A revival of Our Country’s good directed by the great Max Stafford-Clark and Sandi Toksvig’s play Bully Boy directed by David Gilmore are both part of the opening season in the main house.  So it’s exciting.  I really liked the feel of the place and the ambience was helped by the people who work there.  There was a great feeling of them belonging and enjoying.  Debra, who showed me around said that it was amazing to her because she’s seen the new theatre take shape from a hole in the ground.  It is amazing that this stylish, glamorous but unpretentious theatre has emerged from the ashes of the old, grey Westminster Theatre.  I did see a couple of productions at the Westminster Theatre before it was burned,  I plan to see a lot more at the new St James Theatre.

St James Theatre in the process of being completed

Neil Harbisson – The Man who can Listen to Colour

Neil Harbisson can hear colour thanks to an eyeborg devise which translates colour into sound using a chip at the back of his skull.  The chip makes sounds by pressing against his head but from next month it will be inserted into the bone.    Neil was born with achromatopsia, a condition that means he sees only shades of black, grey and white.  While at Dartington College in Devon, he went to a lecture given by Adam Montandon who is an expert in cybernetics –  the study of communication and control processes in biological, mechanical, and electronic systems.  Adam Montandon helped Neil develop his first “eyborg” device, which lets him hear light waves.  Now Neil has his “eyeborg”, colour and sound are a synergy:
“The very first thing I looked at with it (the eyeborg) was a red notice board.  It made the note F, the lowest sound on the spectrum.  Red was my favourite colour for years.”
He began to perceive sound as colour too:
“Telephone rings became green; Amy Winehouse seemed red and pink.”
He likes listening to paintings by Andy Warhol, Joan Miro and Mark Rothko, because they all produce very clear notes.  Da Vinci, Velazquez and Munch sound disturbing because they paint with so many shades of the same colour and produce notes that are too close together and Neil hears them as if music from a horror movie.
Neil always wears his eyeborg.  His passport has a picture with him plus eyeborg.  His bedroom is black and white, which are silent colours and let him sleep.  His other floors are painted red, which makes the lowest note and gives a depth to the house.  His green front door is a middle sounding note that acts as a tuning fork before he goes out.
While most of us are aware of the link between sound and shape –  there is a good site that explains this on:
http://www.mediacollege.com/audio/01/sound-waves.html
the transference of colour into sound and vice versa, is not so well known.  Artists of The Dada Movement in the 1920s, experimented with transposing sound into colour and produced some extraordinary pictures with the distinctive colours of the movement.  Our Max Your Voice logo colour was chosen from this colour chart.
The awareness of the link between sound, form and colour can enhance our daily lives.  When I’m working on voice and speech with clients who feel that they are “tone deaf”, I use colour to differentiate between different notes.
Neil Harbisson gives concerts where he plugs himself into a set of speakers and plays the colours of the audience back to them.  See and hear you there…

Neil Harbisson