BWW Review: GHOST QUARTET, Boulevard Theatre
Located deep in the heart of Soho, the Boulevard Theatre is the latest addition to the panorama of London's new studio theatres. The exceptionally versatile and sleek venue has just opened its doors with the UK premiere of Dave Malloy's arresting Ghost Quartet.
The show is a celebration of ancestral storytelling: characters and storylines intersect and transcend time in what feels more like a staged concept album than any other structure. The numbers push the narrative while Carly Bawden, Niccolò Curradi, Maimuna Memon, and Zubin Varla take their audience on a primordial journey.
The material is quietly astonishing. Malloy's lyrical craftsmanship matches his exquisite melodic flare; dark melodies and electro-pop alternate with folk and bohemian tunes as the cast build their relationship with the crowd. From Bawden's crystalline deliveries and Memon's smoky echoes to Varla's jazzy crescendos and Curradi's precisely deep notes, each member brings something different to the score singing, as well as playing a multitude of instruments each - but it's when they come together in harmony that the result is truly otherworldly.
Director Bill Buckhurst sprinkles stardust all over the production. Presented in the round, the piece reveres the music it plays with atmospheric arrangements that juggle with the room's energy levels and conjure hair-raising harmonies from the artists. Simon Kenny's set design stands on a suggestive stained copper floor cluttered with musical instruments and paraphernalia that adds a travelling band vibe to the mix.
Emma Chapman's lights reflect on the surface, creating patterns and marble-like effects that add a splash of magic to an already dreamy show. Malloy devotes his tale to the creation of haunting family relations and hazy friendships, painting with minute brushstrokes the immutable and timeless power of legends. It's a seductive yet convivial experience; its eerie and mystical tones carry humour and melancholy in the same breath before its players drag their listeners back to Earth.
Yarns of lost children, photographers, fathers, and an old astronomer who struggles with the irrational coexist in a universe that perhaps only accidentally dabbles in the occult arts. The characters become visions who appear in a mist of melody and verse before disappearing again like ghosts in the night.
Photo credit: Marc Brenner