Reviews London TheatreReviewsWest End & Central Published 22 July 2016

Review: KlangHaus: On Air at the Royal Festival Hall

Royal Festival Hall | Southbank ⋄ 7th - 29th July 2016

“It might have been a good idea, but in the event it wasn’t very good”: Andrew Haydon reviews an art rock installation in amongst the Royal Festival Hall’s air-con units.

Andrew Haydon
KlangHaus: On Air at the Royal Festival Hall.

KlangHaus: On Air at the Royal Festival Hall.

KlangHaus are a kind of art-noise group who did brisk business on the Edinburgh Fringe 2014 playing a bunch of gigs programmed in theatre slots at Summerhall. As a result, rather than going through the usual tiresome process of gigging in sweaty pubs and honing a blinding live act in punishingly low-billed slots at z-list festivals, they seem to have created a niche for themselves as the performance-art band de nos jours. On this showing, that’s a bit of a pity, as there are many, many other bands who are better. Or perhaps it’s that anyone more popular would sell too well, or can make more money in one evening playing a regular gig. Who knows?

Anyway, On Air is a kind of site-sympathetic gig, taking place over the course of an hour, through the never-usually-seen upper reaches of the Royal Festival Hall, where the air conditioning units are kept. It may or may not have a kind of “air” theme running through the songs.

In theory, this is quite a nice idea; the setting is unusual and the interiors feel like they’re evocative of “something”. The problems, however, are legion:

a) small group and intimate setting, but still somehow the worst sight-lines imaginable.

b) the irritating ersatziness of it all. Sure, it *looks* industrial, but it isn’t. Nothing has ever been made here except cold air for the RFH. Which leads on to…

c) it’s a cruel irony that you’re surrounded by air-con units but are actually boiling hot throughout.

d) the music – some of it’s ok. A couple of songs might even be quite good, but mostly this is deeply mediocre stuff. It might be performed with great conviction, but see a).

e) in terms of what the music is, well, it skips around. Whatever else KlangHaus might be, a band with musical convictions they ain’t; there’s everything from cod-industrial to some sort of acoustic salsa numbers. There’s no sense of an aesthetic *at all*, beyond “session musicians trapped in a service corridor” – if that’s a genre now.

It has taken me a week to muster the enthusiasm to write even this much review. It wasn’t outrageously bad. It wasn’t harmful or offensive. No one involved is untalented. I’m not even quite prepared to write off the idea as stupid immersive-bandwagon jumping by the RFH, it might have been a good idea, but in the event it wasn’t very good. That’s it. That’s literally all there is to say.


Andrew Haydon

Andrew Haydon was a freelance theatre critic (FT, Guardian, Time Out, etc.). He was also the editor of the CultureWars theatre section between 2000-2010, where he discovered exciting new theatre thinkers, including Andy Field, Matt Trueman and Miriam Gillinson. Then he went to Berlin for a while. Now he seems to be back for a bit. His blog here:

Review: KlangHaus: On Air at the Royal Festival Hall Show Info

Cast includes KlangHaus



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