Simply Sinful: Director Kally Lloyd-Jones
Ian Brooke recently caught up with Director and Choreographer Kally Lloyd-Jones for our Friend's magazine Brio, to get her take on Weill and Brecht's final collaboration.
The first thing that needs to be cleared up when I meet Kally Lloyd-Jones, director of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Seven Deadly Sins, is to pinpoint what type of piece it is. Is it an opera, a ballet or a sung ballet? Kally has her own view: ‘I would start with Weill’s concept of a sung ballet, but I would question the use of the word “ballet”. I’m going to use the word “dance”, which allows me a greater movement vocabulary. So let’s say it’s a danced opera.’
First performed in Paris in 1933, The Seven Deadly Sins was commissioned by Edward James whose wife, the ballerina Tilly Losch, had a striking resemblance to Weill’s wife, the singer Lotte Lenya. Thus the main character, Anna, has a split singer/dancer personality. The plot concerns Anna’s quest to raise money to enable her family in Mississippi to build a house. As she travels across Depression-era America, she encounters a new sin in each of seven cities, such as Pride in Memphis or Lust in Boston. Anna I, the singer, has ‘a strong sense of prescribed morals’, says Kally, whereas Anna II, the dancer, is ‘wilder, freer, more driven by her inner truth’. Between sins, we are introduced to Anna’s all-male family – even her mother, who is played by a bass. Their barber shop-style music contrasts with Anna’s rather more louche cabaret influenced songs.
Conceived by Brecht as a satire on capitalist society, the work, Kally believes, has a wider resonance and parallels with life in 2011: ‘It’s about morality and about the difference between doing what’s in your heart and what seems practical, and how the two things are often not the same thing. I think this is a common concern at the moment, and I think that’s why people are downsizing and rethinking their lives. People are questioning what’s right for them.’
In keeping with the 1930s setting of The Seven Deadly Sins, the production will be staged in former Art Deco cinemas in Edinburgh and Glasgow, both now better known as venues for rock and pop concerts. Kally is familiar with Glasgow’s O2 ABC: ‘I’m old enough to remember going to the ABC when it was still a cinema. I think I may have seen Grease there when I was a teenager.’ She has curated a number of short documentary films on life in America in the 1930s (including one on the state of the nation’s teeth) which will be screened before each performance – The Seven Deadly Sins lasts about 40 minutes. And to keep the cinematic theme going, she’s put all the action on a film-set.
Kally has worked as a choreographer and movement director for Scottish Opera on many occasions, most recently on Rigoletto, and she also made her opera directing debut with the Company’s Kátya Kabanová in 2009. The Seven Deadly Sins is a coproduction with Kally’s own Company Chordelia, which she founded in 2002: ‘The work I make is mostly narrative, it’s dance theatre, so it always has elements of theatricality and storytelling. I’ve often used singers in my work, and music features prominently.’
The Seven Deadly Sins will give Kally the perfect opportunity to use all her skills: ‘The content is serious and the point is serious, but it’s also got one foot firmly in the world of entertainment. Opera is fantastic because it offers layers of text and movement and music, and to put them together in a production like this is the most exciting thing ever.’