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From When I Wake review at Tramway, Glasgow – ‘masterclass in gothic set design’

Kathryn Joseph performing From When I Wake. Photo: Louise Mather Kathryn Joseph performing From When I Wake. Photo: Louise Mather
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From When I Wake the Want Is is the second album by Aberdonian musician Kathryn Joseph, a singer and songwriter of unnerving grace and power, and one whose personal story is worthy of its own dramatic treatment.

After waiting tables in obscurity, Joseph released her stunning, poignant debut record as a 40-year-old mother. It won the Scottish Album of the Year Award in 2015, and her burgeoning recognition led her to a support date for The Cure at Hyde Park in July. She also wrote the score for Cora Bissett’s stage adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room, in 2017.

Instigated by Josh Armstrong, associate director of Glasgow-based multimedia performance company Cryptic, From When I Wake – the theatrical performance in support of Joseph’s solo live show – is a stunning exercise in stage design and lighting from James Johnson and Nich Smith, with the very simple, muted choreography of ‘body architect’ Marketa Kratochvilova.

With house lights completely dimmed, Joseph’s crystal-clear performance is held at an antique piano surrounded by long, rectangular mirrors, with black-armed mechanical constructions bursting across the stage. One above the piano bears a hot white light and mirrors that reflect multiple views of Joseph’s face, while another on the ground holds lights that complement the pattern of cold blues and hellish reds glowing around her.

Her movements are gestural and minimal; a slow, studied turn of the head to face towards or away from the audience; an adjusting of the mirrors; the retrieval of a glass of red wine from one of the lighting ‘claws’ for a sip. The effect is to lend a sense of gothic mystery that only emphasises Joseph’s other-worldly presence.

After an opening performance at Tramway, Glasgow, the piece has individual dates in Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth and London.

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Masterclass in gothic set design for music performance