Music is Torture is 'the blackest of black comedies'
- Liam Hainey
- 22 May 2017
The darkness moment is just before dawn
For a play whose central theme is the cruel and degrading treatment of human beings, Music is Torture, directed by Ben Harrison, is surprisingly funny. Putting a humorous slant on such a subject runs the risk of appearing crass, but Louise Quinn's finely balanced script ensures it rarely crosses that line.
Much of the credit for maintaining the balance has to go to Harry Ward's Nick. Playing the optimistic laddish foil to the miserable former rock star Jake (Andy Clark), Ward's performance is the lynchpin of the play. From the moment he first swaggers on stage his comedic abilities are evident, which he matches with a remarkable ability to push a joke to the point of discomfort before transforming into a corrupting, satanic figure. Ward brings a sense of danger, even between the nervous giggles.
As well as writing the script, Quinn also fronts Dawnings, an onstage band whose familiar wispy indie music provides the aural backdrop. Made up of the members of A Band Called Quinn, Dawnings perform a similar role to Nick. They provide welcome relief from some of the play's intensely disturbing moments, while also participating in some of the most horrifying. Keyboardist Robert Henderson's brief spoken intervention deserves special mention for providing one of the biggest laughs of the show.
Music is Torture can occasionally be heavy handed in communicating its message but those instances are rare. This play is the blackest of black comedies, and the constant variations in emotion and intensity make it a compelling, if draining, watch.
Seen at the Tron, Glasgow 18–20 April, on at the Traverse, Edinburgh 25–27 April.