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The Dark Carnival

“Sumptuous, cleverly constructed gig theatre”

Death is a cabaret, old chum, in this collaboration between Matthew Lenton’s theatre company Vanishing Point and Biff Smith’s Glasgow band A New International.

A fresh batch of the newly deceased is being indoctrinated into the ways of death by Elicia Daly’s whimsical, rhyming narrator. It soon becomes clear that in death, as in life, a wee dram and some good songs help to pass the hours.

Smith’s music is more cabaret than carnival, with a strong whiff of Brecht and Weill. The songs hold together a tale of lost love – octogenarian Peter (Peter Kelly) faithfully visits the grave of his boyhood lover John (Malcolm Cumming) 60 years after his death.

A child (Olivia Barrowclough) attempts reconciliation, appearing to Laurie Scott’s ghost-hunting Gary to pass a message from the dead to the living. Above them all, Natali McCleary’s angel sneers down from her cloud, the gates permanently closed on an austerity-hit heaven.

Kenneth MacLeod’s design features sprawling, stacked coffins and a fastidiously neat graveyard, tended by Ramesh Meyyappan’s gravedigger. Simon Wilkinson’s lighting is as sumptuous as it is hard-working, neatly framing the separate, above-ground area so that the living can be seen by the dead.

There is plenty to love about this cleverly constructed and gorgeously presented piece of gig theatre: the brilliant band, the potent reminder of the realities of gay love in the 1950s, and the parallels between the shuttered heaven with today’s monied elite.

But Lenton’s production lacks a substantial centre and Daly’s narrator is an anonymously bland figure, allowing events to unfurl instead of driving them forwards.

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Production Details
Production nameThe Dark Carnival
StartsFebruary 19, 2019
EndsMarch 2, 2019, then touring until March 16, 2019
Running time1hr 45mins
AuthorMatthew Lenton
ComposerA New International
LyricistBiff Smith
DirectorMatthew Lenton
Set designerKenneth Macleod
Costume designerKenneth Macleod
Lighting designerSimon Wilkinson
CastAnn Louise Ross, Biff Smith, Elicia Daly, Harry Ward, Laurie Scott, Malcolm Cumming, Natali Mccleary, Olivia Barrowclough, Peter Kelly, Ramesh Meyyappan
Production managerFiona Fraser
ProducerCitizens Theatre, Dundee Rep, Vanishing Point
VerdictSumptuous and richly designed gig theatre show, with music by Biff Smith and A New International
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Thom Dibdin

Thom Dibdin

Thom Dibdin

Thom Dibdin

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