Music at the Brewhouse: Helter Skelter

Tramway, Glasgow, Tue 3-Sat 7 Jul



If there’s something about the circus that thrills us when we’re children, there’s also a darker undercurrent within the spectacle of it all. This is perhaps why clowns have so often been lifted from their traditional locale and into horror movies by filmmakers. This new piece at Tramway, which combines the live music of the band Music at the Brewhouse with a variety of performers with circus and other skills, looks like capturing both sides of this traditional image.

And some of the talents involved look impressive. The text, by novelist Dilys Rose, looks to have the kind of imagistic quality that a kind of magic realist narrative such as this might require. But, as composer Stephen Deazley will attest, part of the joy is its international cast. ‘There’s a great range: one Scottish and one English performer, as well as Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chilean - people from all over the world, and also people whose ages range from 21 to mid 50s. So, for example, our Russian performer brings this amazing aesthetic to the exotic world of the circus. But when we asked him what kind of nails he needed for his bed of nails, he said, “just six inch” and that was it. So it’s a kind of glamorous world, but also a very ordinary one.’

And a scary one. The story, involving an abandoned ballerina who joins a travelling circus will use both the Tramway’s interior space and its celebrated gardens; you’ll see knife throwing and trapeze among the skills on display. Deazley tells me the band will be housed in a circus animal cage. And they’re hardly idle: ‘There are 44 minutes of music in the piece, which is a lot of notes to write, but we want to highlight the band, because this is a collection of great musicians, that people will want to see for themselves, beyond the theatre.’

(Steve Cramer)


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