The Royal Opera House can do classy and traditional, but can it do hip and happening? The annual Deloitte Ignite weekend aims to do just that, turning the whole building into a space for installations and alternative performance, with free day passes. A great idea – but this year’s festival, curated by Time Out magazine and tenuously linked by the theme of mirrors, didn’t live up to it. In fact, “ideas that outclass their material” could have been an alternative theme.
A centrepiece to both days was the world’s first Twitter opera, its libretto made from users’ tweets. Composers Helen Porter and Mark Teitler turned in some miracle musical work for the two singers, but inevitably Twitterdämmerung was like an overextended game of consequences, stuffed with non-sequiturs and sub-witticisms. Although over in 15 minutes, it felt three acts long.
In Yinka Shonibare’s film Odile and Odette, one black and one white ballerina perfectly mirrored each other’s moves – a potent scenario, left undeveloped. Chris Goode’s Glass House – cubicles with transvestites changing in front of their mirrors – set up a frisson of disquiet but didn’t follow through; likewise Angela Woodhouse and Caroline Broadhead’s Sighted 2, set in darkness but with a wandering light intermittently illuminating parts of a human figure.
There was one standout piece: Dreamthinkspeak’s Absent was deftly adapted to its setting. Using film, mirrors, actors and decor, this performance installation managed to suggest a whole bygone world haunting a short corridor. One alcove looked as if it had a mirror, but didn’t. You stare into it and the shock of not seeing your own reflection was palpable: who was the ghost here? “Today was worth it just for that,” said one woman as she emerged from the alcove, mirroring my thoughts.