Kiwi composer ramps up gothic horror

Feb 10, 2015

A pair of classic gothic horror films will be brought to life in two unusual WOMADelaide performances that seek to scare the living daylights out of audiences.

Live Live Cinema, the creation of New Zealand composer and musician Leon Radojkovic, involves a seven-piece ensemble, four actors and a sound-effects artist performing live in front of a projected film.

Radojkovic has created new scores for the two 1960s black-and-white movies – director Herk Harvey’s atmospheric Carnival of Souls, about a woman drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13, in which an axe murderer targets members of an eccentric Irish family.

“It gels with my personal taste and aesthetic,” says Radojkovic, explaining the choice of films.

“I tend to be attracted to that sort of thing. It’s partly that and also because we wanted these shows to be enjoyable for an audience; it’s not meant to be something overly serious, so having a horror vibe lends itself to that.”

That said, he says Live Live Cinema takes very seriously its responsibility to honour the films’ horror origins.

His score – played by an ensemble including keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and a three-piece string section – seeks to ramp up the sinister, suspenseful atmosphere. And while the dialogue is little changed from the original, the actors, each of whom voices multiple characters, play with pitch and accent to accentuate the fear factor.

“We do our best to make them [the films] as terrifying as possible, and I think we’re pretty successful,” Radojkovic says.

“There are a couple of moments where people in the audience inevitably throw their popcorn in the air or spill their drink over their date.”

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One of the most talked-about elements of Live Live Cinema performances is the fact that all the sound effects are re-created live on stage by Foley artist Gareth Van Niekerk. His tools include everything from an old typewriter, pieces of metal, wood and small children’s toys to “buckets full of different goos” (which are used to replicate noises like squelching through mud).

“It’s something which is such a huge part of cinema but I think people don’t really realise what goes into creating the sound effects for film,” Radojkovic says.

“I really enjoy watching Gareth do his thing because you get this insight how this sound is created.

“While he’s working all that, he’s also constantly walking because he has to do all the footsteps as well – he’s literally pouring with sweat at the end of the show because it’s such a physical performance.”

Radojkovic came up with the idea for Live Live Cinema after watching silent films presented with modern musical scores. He was intrigued by the idea of taking things even further with a live ensemble and actors, but says that in selecting films that already had music, it was important the original scores weren’t too celebrated – “so wouldn’t feel like I was doing anything sacrilegious if I tried to write a new score for them”.

Live Live Cinema’s performances at the 2015 WOMADelaide will be only the second time it has presented Carnival of Souls and Dementia 13 outside a cinema.

“We’ve only done one outdoor performance before and that was in Perth and it was probably my favourite,” Radojkovic says.

“When it was outdoors on a stage, it felt like a gig almost – it was like more of a rock and roll-type performance.”

Live Live Cinema will be presenting two shows at WOMADelaide on Friday, March 6, and Sunday, March 8.

WOMADelaide 2015 to fill the senses

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