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Barbara Thompson: Playing Against Time

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2012 BBC4

“Playing against Time” is a moving and powerful exploration of Parkinson’s Disease seen through the prism of music, featuring the virtuoso UK jazz saxophonist/composer Barbara Thompson (first diagnosed in 1997) and her husband, the brilliant jazz-rock drummer Jon Hiseman. Interweaving musical and medical sequences and directed by the award-winning arts documentary film maker Mike Dibb, the film follows five years of Barbara’s inspiring struggle with Parkinson’s and her search for various available treatments which until now have allowed her to continue to play with her own band “Paraphernalia” and Jon’s rock band “Colosseum”, but, for how long?

The film features a remarkably intimate look at Jon and Barbara’s daily life, as well as following the couple through their consultations at London’s King’s College Hospital with Professor Ray Chaudhuri and in Oxford with Professor Tipu Aziz, the UK’s leading authority on deep brain stimulation by implanted electrodes.

Barbara is shown performing at various Parkinson’s events, and as the composer of orchestral, chamber and choral music for classical musicians, including a challenging piece for two tubas and a saxophone quartet. She talks eloquently about living with Parkinson’s and the importance of music and creativity to the way she copes with this (so far) incurable disease, while Jon talks candidly about how it affects their personal and professional lives.

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