The Battleship Potemkin, Pet Shop Boys , Swan Hunter’s shipyard, Wallsend, 1st May 2006

The Battleship Potemkin, Pet Shop Boys , Swan Hunter’s shipyard, Wallsend, 1st May 2006
Le cuirassŽ Potemkine 1925 real : Sergei Eisenstein COLLECTION CHRISTOPHELIn 2003 The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, asked Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe (Pet Shop Boys) to write a new score for the film The Battleship Potemkin, and perform it as a free concert in Trafalgar Square. They did so, and have performed the piece several times since, including this performance in the North East, which David and I attended in May 2006. The Battleship Potemkin is a propaganda film that tells the story of the 1905 mutiny of the Russian ship. The film is recognised as a silent classic, and is often cited as one of the greatest films of the period. I attended a film studies course at college; The Battleship Potemkin was one of the films we were shown, and I had to write an essay about it. “Battleship Potemkin is a 1925 silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It presents a dramatized version of the mutiny that occurred in 1905 when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers of the Tsarist regime. Battleship Potemkin has been called one of the most influential propaganda films of all time, and was named the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.” (Wikipedia). potemflyerOn May 1st, 2006, Pet Shop Boys with the Northern Sinfonia performed the music with the film at a special event held at Swan Hunter’s shipyard, Wallsend, and presented by the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative. Tickets were distributed free through a ballot, and 14,000 people attended the event. The music reflected the sombre mood of the film, and used a mixture of electronica and orchestration to provide an appropriate accompaniment to the grainy images shown on the screen. It was a cold evening, and there was quite a wait before Pet Shop Boys and the film started. Then local actor Tim Healy appeared on a raised platform to the left of the stage to introduce the performance. The film’s credits rolled and the music started. This was a very different type of performance for most of the crowd, including me, and fans of Pet Shop Boys who were hoping to hear some of their many hits will have gone home disappointed; indeed we could hardly see the band, as they spent most of the evening hidden behind a screen on the dimly lit stage. potemtixThe music was mostly instrumental, although Pet Shop Boys had composed a few new songs as part of their score. It was very loud in parts, and fitted well with the film and its battle sequences. It was, as it should have been, the film which was the star of the evening. I went with David and we both agreed it was quite a strange, but ultimately fulfilling, experience. The walk down to the shipyard was marked by stickers (showing Pet Shop Boys) on the pavement; I managed to pull one up on the way home, and have pictured it here 🙂 I have also included a picture from the film The Battleship Potemkin, which is now public domain and available thanks to the Wikimedia Commons licence.
potemway NewcastleGateshead Chief Executive Andrew Dixon said when the performance was announced: “This event promises to be an amazing and unforgettable audience experience set against the striking backdrop of one of the region’s most historic and iconic symbols of its industrial roots. To use Swan Hunters as a stage set for one of the most exciting and innovative musical events of 2006 is very fitting.” Sage Gateshead performance director Simon Clugston: “To hear Northern Sinfonia perform the soundtrack to the classic film Battleship Potemkin with the Pet Shop Boys in the apt industrial setting of Swan Hunter’s shipyard will be a night to remember.”

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