On Thursday 11 and Friday 12 February we premiere The Journey Between Us at Southwark Playhouse. Four short stories will be read be acclaimed actress Lisa Dwan, interspersed with music from Samantha Fernando.

Ahead of next week, we wanted to introduce you to her life and work.

Lisa Dwan

Lisa Dwan is a producer, performer and director originally from Ireland. Having trained in the UK as a ballet dancer, including dancing with Rudolf Nureyev in Coppelia in Dublin, she began acting professionally in her teens.

She has worked extensively in theatre, film and television, both internationally and in her native Ireland. Most recently she performed her own sell out adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Text for Nothing entitled NO’s Knife at the Lincoln Centre in New York last autumn. She has also toured all over the world to great audience and critical acclaim in the Beckett Trilogy of Not I/Footfalls/Rockaby. She has been hailed as “a Beckett prodigy” (New York Times), with Ben Brantley noting that “Ms. Dwan… is an instrument of Beckett, in the way saints and martyrs are said to be instruments of God”.

She was coached by Billie Whitelaw and has collaborated with Walter Asmus since 2012. Originating at the Royal Court Theatre in London, the Beckett Trilogy’s engagements include the Barbican Centre, Southbank Centre, West End, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Perth Festival, Paris, Hong Kong and Toronto, with an upcoming United States tour including a return to New York.

Film credits include An Afterthought directed by Matteo Bernardini, Oliver Twist, John Boorman’s The Tailor of Panama and Bhopal – A Prayer for Rain. In 2012, she adapted, produced and performed the critically acclaimed one-woman play Beside the Sea at Southbank Centre and on tour, and starred in Goran Bregovic’s new music drama, Margot, Diary of an Unhappy Queen at the Barbican. Recent theatre credits also include Ramin Gray’s production of Illusions by Ivan Viripaev at the Bush Theatre and Dear Bessie: Letters Live with Benedict Cumberbatch (Hay Festival and West End).

Dwan writes, presents, lectures and teaches regularly on theatre, culture and Beckett (BBC radio and television, NPR, the Guardian, the Telegraph, École Normale Supérieure, Princeton University and Trinity College Dublin).

Here is one of her acclaimed performances of Samuel Beckett:


In the run up to our performances of Michel van der Aa’s The Book of Disquiet on Wednesday 24 & Thursday 25 February we are exploring the writing of Fernando Pessoa, the Portuguese poet on whose words the piece is based.

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From the US Premiere of ‘The Book of Disquiet’. Photo by Marina Levitskaya, courtesy of Peak Performances at Montclair State University.

When he died in 1935 he left behind a trunk filled with unfinished fragments – a treasure trove of scribbled anecdotes and idle thoughts. These included the pages that make up his posthumous masterpiece The Book of Disquiet, the autobiography of one of his many alter egos Bernando Soares, a Lisbon book-keeper.

“More than 400 texts make up The Book of Disquiet, a mixture of aphorisms and autobiography, philosophy and dream diary, which gradually coheres into a portrait of their solitary, misanthropic writer.” The Guardian

One of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century, Pessoa was a prolific writer both under his own name and that of 75 other imaginary characters. Inspired by this, we decided to go behind the scenes and reveal the many different characters, and alter egos, that make up the London Sinfonietta team. We asked them to answer any or all of the following…


  1. What pseudonym would you use?
  2. If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?
  3. What’s your guilty pleasure?
  4. Tell us something about yourself that we would never guess.


Emeritus Principal Pianist John Constable
Joe Root and bat no.4 for England
3. Good food and drink.
4. I havent run anywhere since I left school as it was the one thing I hated doing.

Development Manager Harriet Findlay
1. Yaldnif Asiuol Teirrah
2. Beyoncé – so I could learn how to sing, dance and perform like Queen Bee
3. Hollyoaks

Council Member Régis Cochefert
1. Arthur Bling
2. James Bond
3. Chocolate
4. I trained as an Accountant

Development Assistant Max Heanue
1. Maria Hernandez 
Matthieu Ricard (The happiest man in the world)
3. Shakira
4. I eat around 6-10 satsumas a day (I don’t think it’s an addiction…)

Chief Executive Andrew Burke
 At the moment, Einstein.  Then perhaps I could fully understand Relativity.

Council Member Richard Lewis Jones
1. Roger Federer
2. Roger Federer
3. South Park (TV show)

Principal Violinist Joan Atherton
. I am a lifetime fan of Blackpool FC and attend their away matches in the south when possible.

An Anonymous Mother…
. For a proper sensory guilty pleasure: a single home-made fairy cake with buttercream icing and a glass of freezing cold dry white wine in the corner of a children’s party when no-one is looking
4. I do ballet classes every week

Got an especially good answer to one of the questions? We’d love to hear it. Email


In February Southwark Playhouse plays host to a meeting of music and film as the London Sinfonietta collaborates with students from Central Saint Martins. In our latest round of quickfire questions, film-maker Tatiana Delauney shares her highs, her lows and this time, her best art-related joke. See her film and five others accompanied live by London Sinfonietta soloists on Tuesday 9 February.

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What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement? 
Curating and organizing an exhibition and performance with no budget in two months (Making a Home at Geddes Gallery). Otherwise, getting out of bed and trying to do work is my daily achievement!

What is your greatest fear?
Not getting out of bed and trying to do work.

What’s currently on your coffee table at home?
Erm, dirty dishes and the framed picture A Mood of Highly Coloured Naturalism by Karen Knorr. But mostly dirty dishes.

What was the first recording you ever bought?
Probably something deeply uncool like the French version of Britney Spears.

Describe your film-making style in three words.
Self-deprecating, analytical, spontaneous.

If you could have any profession, what would it be?
A writer or performer or director, maybe, or none.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life so far?
Is this when you’re expected to say mum?

Tell us your best art-related joke:
Modern Art: “I could do that”.

“Yeah, but you didn’t”.


We give the UK premiere of Michel Van der Aa’s The Book of Disquiet at The Coronet Theatre on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 February 2016.

Samuel WestThis hypnotic work mixes music, electronics, video and spoken word, which will be performed by British actor Samuel West. Ahead of the performances, we asked him some quickfire questions.

What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement?
Playing Hamlet for a year and three days at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

What do you fear? 
Not dying before my daughter.

Which piece of music or theatre has had the biggest effect on you as an actor?
The Rite of Spring live has had a more visceral effect on me than any play I’ve ever seen, though I’m often brought to tears by the work I see on stage.

What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?
A Commedia dell’Arte show in the streets of Nairobi as a student – or else the one I’m about to do with you: multimedia, solo, playing opposite filmed alternate personalities speaking a different language.

What’s currently on your coffee table at home?
The catalogue of the Frank Stella retrospective, seen at the Whitney last week, and a lot of Lego.

What was the first recording you ever bought?
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick by Ian Dury and the Blockheads. An ex-jukebox copy, for 50p. I now have a jukebox of my own, and it’s on it.

Describe yourself in three words.
Not good at counting.

If you could have any other profession, what would it be?

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My parents. I mean, hasn’t everyone’s? But I went into the family business, so especially.

Tell us your best theatrical/ musical joke.
An actor takes a job at Birmingham Rep and some digs near the canal. One day, walking to work along the towpath, he accepts a lift from a passing boatman who’s carrying manure. At the next lock, the lock-keeper calls down “What’s your cargo?”

The boatman shouts back “A load of shit and an actor”.

After a moment the actor goes up to the boatman.

“I say, old chap” he says. “Could we have a chat about billing?”



Ahead of our UK premiere of The Book of Disquiet, Philip Cashian, composer and Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music analyses Michel van der Aa’s striking music.

Van der Aa was born in 1970 and is a truly multidisciplinary figure: “his ability to fuse music, text and visual images into a totally organic whole sets him apart from nearly all his contemporaries” (The Guardian). Acoustic instruments, voices, electronics, actors, theatre and video are all extensions of his musical vocabulary, many of which will play a part in The Book of Disquiet on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 February 2016.

Here, Philip focuses on one of his most recent works – the Violin Concerto written in 2014 for Janine Jansen with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, a piece rooted in tradition but with a distinctly theatrical edge.


From the US Premiere of ‘The Book of Disquiet’. Photo by Marina Levitskaya, courtesy of Peak Performances at Montclair State University


Surprisingly for a composer who is at the forefront of incorporating cutting edge technology with live performance, this recent Concerto, written only two years ago, aligns itself with the traditional three movement structure and has no electronics. A lot of the writing reminds me of the fabulous, under rated Stravinsky Violin Concerto, particularly the episodic structure and energy Van der Aa’s third movement has, which I find has parallels with the final movement of the Stravinsky – a set of variations that fly around the orchestra at breakneck speed.

On his website Van der Aa described writing for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and soloist Janine Jansen as his “dream team. He goes on to say I love the theatrical possibilities of having someone who is the embodiment of the work. The theatre begins in Jansen’s presence and personality, but extends across the whole stage”. This energy and dynamism is clearly audible in this virtuosic, almost toe-tapping live recording!

The music is constantly changing direction, repeating itself (02:28 – 02:33 is a return to 01:11 – 01:16), going back and re-tracing it’s steps but always finding something new.

A lot of this frenetic activity is underpinned by a regular pulse somewhere in the orchestra, pizzicato or un-pitched percussion, so that the feeling of syncopation is strong (07:50 – 08:37). Van der Aa has talked much about the influence of jazz in the piece.

The movement starts with the solo violin (00:06 – 00:11) playing a repetitive figure that acts almost as a leitmotif or ‘musical engine’, which keeps returning in different guises around the orchestra to re-energize the music (01:02 – 01:08, 04:06 – 04:12, 06:12 – 06:32, 07:11 – 07:25).

He uses the orchestra not just to accompany and punctuate what the soloist is playing but also like a hall of mirrors, reflecting and transforming the violin’s music.

At 04:31 – 04:33 a tremolo in the violin becomes a flutter-tongue in the flute. At 03:41 – 03:50 violin tremolos and a trill are passed to the trumpet.

The movement is full of surprises, such as the brief brass riff coming from nowhere that sounds almost like a sample at 05:12 – 05:25, or the suddenly more reflective, delicate writing with bells at 06:01 – 06:11.

Listen out for the music starting to slowly accumulate from 06:22 – 07:14, taking us into the final section with lots of pulsing, ticking percussion and a bluegrass feel to the violin writing, particularly from 08:02 – 08:37.


Michel van der Aa Oog
Oog – Michel van der Aa, Markus Hohti

Tansy Davies Neon
Neon – Tansy Davies, Azalea Ensemble, Christopher Austin

Simon Steen Andersen

Andrew Norman

Martijn Padding White Eagle

Julia Wolfe Believing
Believing – Julia Wolfe, Bang On A Can All-Stars


Philip Cashian, composer and Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, delves into the music of early-career composer Samantha Fernando. On Thursday 11 and Friday 12 February we premiere her latest work The Journey Between Us, a piece in four movements interspersed with short stories read by acclaimed actress Lisa Dwan.



Samantha Fernando’s music treads a delicate line between obsession, stasis, repetition, simple harmonic and melodic figures, silence and instrumental timbre all of which lend it an enigmatic quality that is both captivating and beautifully constructed.

Her music is very economical, built on fragments that are put under the microscope and then re-arranged to create pieces that have an almost meditative and hypnotic feel. Composers should always be economical, drawing the most from their ideas and really giving them character and identity (therefore making them memorable) and this is evident in the three pieces of Samantha’s that I’ve listened to and examined here.

Her music has clarity and is exquisitely paced: nothing ever feels rushed or out stays it’s welcome, creating musical structures that are almost sculpture-like.


Fault Line for solo cello is a good example and shows how she often builds her music out of juxtaposing or alternating two pitches or opposing musical ideas.

Opening – 01:06: The piece opens with 20 seconds of aggressive tremolo, then, after a short silence, a quiet sustained G played normally and as a harmonic.

01:06 – 01:21: The G is then alternated with an F sharp for 15 seconds.

01:36: This is followed by a double stopped C/A flat drone at the bottom of the cello’s register, which is juxtaposed against the F sharp and G before a short melodic figure.

And by varying and re-arranging these few simple musical objects, she constructs the whole piece.

Her Sinfonietta Short piece Kinisphere* for solo flute and the quartet Positive/Negative Space for flute, clarinet, saxophone and cello both, to my ear, have the ghost of tonality in the background.

Positive/Negative Space settles around an A major dominant seventh chord from 05:38 with a pizzicato A in the cello (06:02). From 03:56 Kinisphere starts to settle on a low C sharp which, with high F sharps (from 03:26) and G sharps (from 03:46), is made to feel like a tonic note.

Other moments to listen out for:

The whispery coda in Kinisphere at 04:26 and a similar texture in the cello in Positive/Negative Space around 04:42 – 04:55.

Saxophone multiphonic in Positive/Negative Space at 00:57 and a musical phrase that grows out of two note oscillating figures at 02:18.

In Fault Line an obsessive alternation between F sharp and G for over a minute during 03:1504:26.

* Sinfonietta Shorts are bite-sized pieces of the best new music, commissioned, recorded and released as downloads by the London Sinfonietta. Kinesphere by Samantha Fernando will be available on NMC Recordings from Friday 19 February 2016:


Salvatore Sciarrino: Lo Spazio inverso

Iannis Xenakis: Charisma

Sofia Gubaidulina: Trio for Three Trumpets

Simon Holt: Feet of Clay

Laurence Crane: Sparling


Remember that letter you couldn’t bring yourself to send? That funny anecdote from Christmas? That one piece of advice you wish someone had given you years ago? That unique experience nobody else will ever have?

To tie in with a month of events combining contemporary music and storytelling, the London Sinfonietta are hosting a citywide story swap.

BOD Letters

On Thursday 11 and Friday 12 February a new piece by composer Samantha Fernando will be interwoven with short stories by Raymond Carver, Jhumpa Lahiri and Lydia Davis, read by actress Lisa Dwan. Their music and words explore the challenges we all face in our relationships at different stages through life.

On Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 February we premiere The Book of Disquiet by Michel van der Aa, mixing music, video, electronics and spoken word performed by Samuel West. It features the posthumous masterpiece of Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, made from the pages found in a trunk when he died – a treasure trove of scribbled anecdotes and idle thoughts.

We invite you to download the template below, or create your own. Fill it with a fragment of your own story and post it back to us. We will post it on to a stranger, anonymously, and send you someone’s story in return.

N1 9AG

(no stamp required)

Don’t forget to include:
– Your Name
– Email address
– Address (so we can send you a letter in return)

Download the Story Swap template.


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