Chill out to the haunting sound of silents

14th February 2003 at 00:00
Judith Palmer ushers in this week's highlights with the eerie strains of the dulcimer

Hammered horror

The creepy masterpiece of German expressionist cinema, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, rises from the dead this week to an ethereal new soundtrack by British composer Geoff Smith.

One of the earliest horror films, Robert Wiene's 1919 silent picture tells the tale of cunning hypnotist Dr Caligari, who exerts his influence over a somnambulist, willing the sleeping man to commit murders on his behalf.

It's a chilling psychological maze of angst and insanity, bathed in postwar gloom and unsettling angular shadows.

Performed live on stage to an original tinted print of the film, Geoff Smith's score uses the rarely heard sound of the hammered dulcimer to set the skin prickling. "It's a timeless film and there's a timelessness about the sound of the dulcimer. It's an ancient instrument and it releases some deeper primordial thing in the sound," says Smith, who made the three dulcimers used for the performance.

Smith was a jazz drummer before he fell under the spell of the dulcimer and the lingering miasmic sound of its ghostly strings. The invention of the piano killed off the dulcimer in much the same way as talking pictures sounded the death knell for silent films. But for one week at least, you can succumb to the eerie charms of both.

Playing at the Other Cinema, London, February 14 and 20; Manchester Cornerhouse (16); Nottingham Broadway (19); Duke of York's, Brighton (28).

Certificate U. www.dulcimer.co.uk.

Go wild on tour

Wild Girl, Wild Boy, Pop-Up Theatre's award-winning production of David Almond's powerful play for over-eights, has just started a national tour. In Skellig, the novel that won Almond the 1998 Whitbread Children's Book Award and Carnegie Medal, he used magic and mystery to tackle the agonising anxiety of life-threatening illness in the family.

Wild Girl, Wild Boy uses the same blend of magic realism to confront the mental turmoil of a young girl whose father has just died. Her world turned upside down, wild-child Elaine starts skipping school and passing the days alone with her imagination, rummaging through the overgrown allotment where she used to spend time with her dad.

Almond's poetic script (Hodder Children's Books, pound;5.99) movingly depicts the inarticulacy of grief and the healing power of fantasy. Touring until the end of March. Information, tel: 020 7609 3339; www.pop-up.net.

Put the needle on the record

Cued Up is the latest play from the Half Moon New Writing Scheme. Cool East End teenagers D and Nina are into hip-hop and garage, while Joe, an elderly widower, lives for jazz. Putting musical differences aside, the trio strike up an unlikely friendship as they come to respect each other's musical passions. Paul Ashton's play for 13-plus is driven by a thumping soundscape from club DJ Steve Bicknell.

Half Moon, London, today, then on tour including Wimbledon Studio Theatre (February 25-March 1) and Aberystwyth Arts Centre (March 13). Information: 020 7709 8900; www.halfmoon.org.uk.

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