David Benedict on theatre

Theatre
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The Independent Online
You just can't rely on theatre. For decent dress sense these days you have to head for the concert hall. Take soprano Valerie Masterson, who once thrilled a packed Barbican Hall with a recital of Handel's sacred music in floor-length fuschia silk. Back she came after the interval but something was awry. Whatever had she done? Changed her frock? Not quite. The second half, consisting of secular Handel, led our heroine to take the suggestive route: she removed the sleeves. Cue muffled hysteria.

The Gogmagogs are having none of this. Under the watchful eye of director Lucy Bailey, seven virtuoso string players take contemporary classical music out of the concert hall and explode onto the stage. Their current show, featuring works by composers as diverse as Jane Gardner and Luke Stoneham, has nothing to do with the faintly patronising notion of "accessibility" and everything to do with real theatre.

Numerous companies have tried to break down barriers by integrating musicians within dramatic action, but with little real success. The Gogmagogs are a rare, joyous exception. Looking like George Burns clones on LSD, they don flourescent baseball caps and thick, pebble-glass comedy spectacles to cavort gleefully through Roger Eno's bizarrely funny "Holiday of the Lifetime".

Stephen Warbeck (Prime Suspect) has written two pieces for them, including "Shipwreck", a hilarious Gentleman's Excuse-Me in which the players phonetically steal each other's instruments mid-phrase to dazzling effect. The action slows down for Errolyn Wallen's sublime chorale, which suggests the composer is the love child of Tippett and Poulenc.

The Gogmagogs do for classical music what last year's Tap Dogs did for dance, only much, much better. If you've never been to a contemporary concert - and especially if you have and hated it - go and see them. Now.

'The Gogmagogs' at the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh to Sat

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