Elizabeth Swados Clive Barnes - Essay

Clive Barnes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Nightclub Cantata"] is the most original and perhaps the most pleasurable form of nightclub entertainment I have ever encountered…. It is more in the pattern of the "Jacques Brel" show, but its accent, its manner and its atmosphere is quite different.

Miss Swados comes off as a force of nature….

What is fascinating about this "Nightclub Cantata" is simply its unique mixture of music, drama and pop entertainment. Miss Swados's own staging is a knockout—the actors are trained like human acrobats—and her choice of source material, much of it written by herself, runs from Sylvia Plath and Frank O'Hara to Carson McCullers. But in the event it is the music that does it.

I have always been interested by her music for other people's scenes. It sounded like Mr. [Peter] Brook and Mr. [Andrei] Serban, a little like Muzak for listeners, or background music for the thinking classes. Heard on its own its amazing perceptions become far more apparent.

From Mr. Brook she has learned the humble but radiant virtue of eclecticism. Miss Swados picks around the store-house of contemporary music like a bright-eyed jackdaw. To listen to her music is like hearing a collage of contemporary sounds; she is a sort of Kurt Schwitters of music. Her musical tone is both strange and familiar. Here you can pick up a touch of Kurt Weill, there will be more than a trace of calypso. But all this eclecticism...

(The entire section is 433 words.)