I'm a pretty massive supporter of theatrical experiences that blur the lines between genre and play with audience expectations, so when I learned of Soundstreams' production, conceived by Chris Abraham and Zack Russell around the music of French Canadian composer Claude Vivier, I was intrigued. Vivier's compositions are chilling and unexpected. Any theatrical experience created surrounding these would definitely be unique and challenging.
The production, staged in The Crow's Theatre main space, is in the round, with banks of audience along each of the 4 sides, with a cavernous space in the middle, reaching up to the heights of the flexible theatre space. The physical space is used to great effect, with many objects and lights descending from the heights of the room, and with superb lighting design to transform and bring the audience into the experience of the performance. It opens with a monologue in which Vivier returns home to find his door open; slowly the seemingly linear story blips out of line, and we realize that some of the references were outside of what we thought were the main story. The sound design throughout this first section is clever, amplifying certain everyday sounds and providing a glimpse into what the world might sound like to a composer, the rhythm and metre of every day sounds standing out in a chorus of relation to one another.
From here, the piece moves into the performance and staging of Vivier's own compositions Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele, and Musik für das Ende. The vocal performances are outstanding, and initially the staging, with Vivier intervening, as if watching this in a dream, is very engaging. However, for me, the latter parts of the staging, with the singers moving around the space singing to one another, despite beautiful vocal performances and stunning lighting design, was lacklustre. Rather than showcasing the beautiful singing and hypnotic nature of the composition, it seemed to drag, and ultimately detract from the engagement the audience could have with the music.
Definitely worth seeing and experiencing, but I think that the shape of the production could benefit from a re-think to ensure it does not lose the momentum of the first two section.