With a composer whose film scores (Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet being but two) have won endless awards, and a director whose vision for music theatre knows no bounds, Cryptic’s new stage version of Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando promises to be an unmissable event in Edinburgh and Glasgow this autumn. The main collaboration is between Glasgow-born and based (but now jetsettingly international) Craig Armstrong, and Cathie Boyd, the Irish founder of Cryptic, one of the most innovative theatre companies in Scotland. In addition, Armstrong is working with Antye Greie – aka AGF – the German singer, digital songwriter, producer and poet with whom he has forged an ongoing relationship over several joint projects.
‘Antye is a laptop artist,’ explains Armstrong, ‘who was until recently based for many years in Berlin. She won an Award of Distinction at the 2004 Ars Electronica festival in Linz. For around 10 years I’ve gone to Berlin to work with her, so it’s really weird that she’s now coming to Glasgow. She is extraordinarily talented, with a very special voice and we work well together.’
Orlando, published in 1928, is an exploration of masculinity/femininity over the course of four centuries, starting in the reign of Elizabeth I and ending at the time of World War I. In the book, Orlando changes sex from male to female, participates at the Elizabethan court, enjoys a love affair with a Russian princess and marries a sea captain. The central character is based on Woolf’s close friend, Vita Sackville-West.
In composing the score, Antye and Armstrong have come up with what Armstrong calls ‘a sort of soundtrack’. There are only two live performers on stage, actress Madeleine Worrall, who plays the protagonist, and Antye, who plays Orlando’s subconscious. ‘We’re using something called “Living Canvas”,’ explains Armstrong, ‘which enables Antye’s vocals to be represented visually through electronic manipulation. Essentially, it is an electronic score, which appealed to me as it’s something I’ve not done for a long time.’
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 30 Sep–Sat 2 Oct; Tramway, Glasgow, Tue 2–Sat 6 Nov