OXFRINGE: Gibb Rishes Songologue: the vocal clown

REVIEW: Daily Information, Oxford

Gibb Rishes Songologue: the vocal clown

The vocal clown's many voices assume the role of the traditional clown face.

Gibb Rishes Songologue is one of the strangest and most engaging things you'll ever see. I went after an exam, trudging through the rain to get to the Jam Factory, doubting every second that it was a good idea. The event was described, after all, simply as "the vocal clown". I was pretty certain I wouldn't be in the mood. But Anne L Ryan is a magnificent trickster, a melodious siren, a tragicomic buffoon, a Cassandra, a lady of lament, and a Commedia dell'Arte style satirist of current events, all in one. The boiler room at the Jam Factory should have been packed out. Moving Tone is the tiny not-for-profit music arts organisation she stands upon, which operates in some ways like a DailyInfo for independent and interesting artists. 'Gibb Rish', we come to understand, is one character in Ryan's repertoire. A kaleidoscopic shake of her life, expressed in under an hour, via twenty or so vignettes, clownings, vocal games, potted melodramas, and snatches of songs. Connoisseurs of traditional Gaelic music, not to mention of Cage, Beckett and Kagel (I do not include myself) will find fragments to their taste weaving in and out of Anne L Ryan's and Loré Lixenberg's confident postmodern production. The director, Lixenberg, is "best known for her role in Jerry Springer the Opera." The patchwork soundscapes Gibb Rishes Songologue were developed "in a series of collaborations between Moving Tone's creative director, Anne L Ryan, and composers Stuart Russell and Simon Fell." Gibb Rish enters with an umbrella through a thunderclap and the sound of pouring rain. She pitter-patters and rolls raspberries around her mouth, communicating back and forth with the speakers playing what might otherwise be called her 'backing track' - an unpredictable sequence of slapstick noises and more cooperative grumblings - but here becomes an equal partner in the performance. We follow Gibb Rish as an exuberant socialite, a pining lover, a Gaelic wanderer, an operatic middle-aged person in decline, brushing her teeth as she looks into the mirror, amd a hilarious nasal English ideologue of finance-capitalism and the need to 'spend' Ireland's way out of the crisis - to name but a few of the colours in this rainbow. 'Blue Tuesday' is a devastating song about a breakdown in a relationship, which Ryan inflects with some gibberish and a heavy French accent for amusement, with no loss, somehow, to the moment's poignancy. Joy, sorrow, political disgust, disappointment, solidarity, yearning, and Ireland: these are perhaps a few things the Songologue is 'about'. But the evening for me was mainly about the continuing power of real, warts-out, beautiful moon-gazing lunatic storytellers. Visit Anne's website here http://www.annelryan.co.uk/media where long as well as short excerpts of the 'Songologue' are generously available. Moving Tone is bringing *another piece* to Oxford on 7th October. Be sure you don't miss that, that's my advice.

Sophielle (DI User), 25/06/11

Sophie Lewis Oxford Music Critic
Daily Information, Oxford