PETWORTH FESTIVAL: Little Baroque Company and the dangers of coffee...

Coffee addiction and its dangers get a comic make-over in a sparkling entertainment offered at this year’s Petworth Festival.

Little Baroque Company
Little Baroque Company

Helen Kruger, director of Little Baroque Company, brings the group to the festival for three performances on Friday, July 17 at 11am, 2pm and 4.30pm at Sofas & Stuff Showroom, Fittleworth, RH20 1ER (tickets 01798 344576).

They are promising decadence, drama and delight – and J S Bach’s Coffee Cantata as you’ve never seen it before. Fully costumed, the colourfully-staged show, complete with full baroque ensemble, presents Bach’s comic cantata satirically depicting the rise of the coffee house in 18th-century Germany (plus additional repertoire by Telemann).

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The libretto has been amusingly updated to represent inter-generational angst in the 21st century – as opposed to the 18th century when the rise of the coffee house was the root of all evil.

Designer Elizabeth Gadsby has been brought in to create the visual language that enhances the music and narrative. As Elizabeth explains: “The Coffee Cantata was originally written because of the rise in Vienna of the coffee house. It is a beautiful interaction between a daughter and her father. He is telling her that she shouldn’t drink coffee because she will end up shrivelled up and old. He is telling her that she won’t be able to get married if she continues her wilful ways with her coffee addiction. It’s a stand-off, and we thought it would be a good idea to transpose this to contemporary life where we are all fuelled by coffee!”

Helen adds: “The Bach is a fantastic work in itself, but what is surprising is how the key issues of Bach’s time are still key issues for us – addiction to coffee! We just thought the work was a good one for us to choose for a totally-immersive performance. It is set in the round. All the elements are put together for the audience to actively engage. But we didn’t go down the route of traditional 18th-century costume. We went for a more baroque-on-acid style look. It’s all very bright colours. The idea is that it is all just a little bit more contemporary and all just a little bit more eye-catching – and all completely immersive!

“But the Bach itself is just brilliant, to find him on this topic in amongst all his sacred music. But being Bach, it is just so wonderfully well written for all the instruments. We first did the show in 2013 for the London Handel Festival, and it was really devised for that. We have a great relationship with them, our first foray into a more collaborative thing with designers and artists and various producers.”

Helen started the company when she was at the Royal Academy about eight years ago. They enjoyed success at the Edinburgh Fringe and various other festivals, including visits to Spain, France and Australia.

“Now this is a new direction for us. We are moving towards doing more collaborative work with other people across the arts field. This is more of a production than a concert. We are really working towards producing an immersive experience.”

Australian Helen very much sees her future in the UK: “London is the best place to be for historical performance.”

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