Scratch: Lands of Glass (3 stars)

This article is from 2014

Lands of Glass

Fusing theatre and live music soundtrack beautifully

It’s the musical instruments that are the real stars of Newcastle-based Unfolding Theatre’s whimsical show – gleaming glass marimbas, bells, bottles and oversized brandy glasses that are struck, bowed or rubbed by the five-strong cast to produce the play’s evocative, gamelan-like soundscape.

The story they help tell, though, is less convincing. Based on Alessandro Baricco’s novel of the same name, it’s a dream-like tale of the fantasy city of Quinnipak and its glass factory, unhinged inventors, impossibly beautiful women, crystal palaces and locomotives leading nowhere. There’s a fittingly fragile magic to Unfolding Theatre’s delivery, and some beautiful set-pieces – turning the audience into a choir, each person finding their own note, is a masterstroke. But it’s not always clear who’s who as the actors multitask between roles and instruments, which, coupled with the bizarre twists and turns of the narrative itself, makes the whole show feel quite elusive.

The performances are generally strong – especially Hannah Boyde as a touchingly elfin Jun Rail – and the actors deliver the live soundtrack beautifully. Go to admire the instruments and the music, but the play might feel a bit like a bonus.

Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, until 24 Aug (not 5, 12, 16, 18), £12 (£9).

Lands of Glass work-in-progress at Battersea Arts Centre

Scratch: Lands of Glass

  • 3 stars
  • Written by: Alessandro Baricco

This theatrical adaptation brings best-selling Italian novelist Alessandro Baricco's hilarious world of imagination to UK audiences for the first time, featuring live music played on specially created glass instruments: marimbas, chimes, bells, even a Sauvignon-blancophone.