Friday, 26 April 2013

The Embassy New Great Britain

Last time out, Josh Armstrong transported Cryptic back to a Victorian tragedy, in a secular retelling of The Little Match Girl Passion. This time, he's jumping into a fantasy future, equal parts SNP dream (an independent Scotland, a retired monarchy, a flooded London) and Lovecraftian horror (that water level rise isn't just bothering London). And in typically Cryptic style, this isn't just about the drama: the audience is being invited to join the players for an evening in The Embassy of New Great Britain.

The evening is centred around the performance of NGB's theme tune - thankfully not by The Proclaimers or Chas'n'Dave - and it is an mordant number: Requiem for a World. This new commission from David Donaldson is scored for voice, quartet and electronics, an appropriately diminished ensemble against the usual anthem line-up of big orchestra and massed choirs. 

There's more than music: cocktails are promised and the New Great Britain has renounced the puritanism of its forebear and gone for a nation that "embraces the beauty of the individual... a body is not to be covered up but to be celebrated." Gender and sex boundaries have been broken and Mother Earth has replaced JHVH as the number one deity. 

This has had a impact on both diet (no more meat) and the nation's motto (“terre tournera sans nous”  “earth shifts without us.”). Technology has kept on moving though: all payments are made electronically. I'm not so sure about this other advance - "personal services are bought at the level of common goods." 

If anyone can make this utopia as ravishing as it claims, it is Armstrong. His Little Match Girl Passion integrated singing, dance and visual theatre into a satisfying whole without losing the bite of the text. Meanwhile, composer David Donaldson has just come off of working on The Great Gatsby, having previously produced the soundtrack for Ray.

For fans of Tramway in the early 2000s, the inclusion of Steve Dugardin (singing) is a nostalgic treat. Dugardin was last in Glasgow with Les Ballets C de la B - he took care of the vocal duties in B√Ęche, which was one of the pieces that inspired me to become a critic instead of a Latin teacher. 

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