Our Carnal Hearts
  • By M Johnson
  • |
  • 21st Aug 2017
  • |
  • ★★★★★

Our Carnal Hearts is a wicked and totally absorbing cathartic purging experience, exalting the darker shades of humanity that dwell within us all. Particularly focusing on seething green-eyed envy and our burning desire for distraction. Rachel Mars’s gloriously charismatic choirmaster looks like a revolutionary office worker decked out in a white shirt and belt. She leads a quartet of black-garbed women, who provide gorgeously atmospheric choral accompaniment.

If you want a piece that pushes your expectations about form, modernity and your innermost desires, Our Carnal Hearts is for you.

Part choir practice, part pagan ritual, Mars guides us through the ceremony: that combines service, sermon – including audience participation – and storytelling. These extracts and songs are interwoven with a loose framing device telling a story of a fairy who comes to visit you and grants one wish. The catch: whatever you wish for, your neighbour will receive twice over. It sneakily and deftly prys open the lid to the place we keep our shameful bits.

The rite itself is deeply engaging, layering music on the poetic visceral script. It was a treat listening to the text, which beautifully blends together mundane normality and phantasmal spectacle. What works really well is the sense of the whole piece building wonderfully, slowly, stickily to a triumphant celebration of honesty in envy. This might be the first time I've been genuinely intrigued by the input from the audience. The way the performers and audience interacted was fascinating. Interaction was slipped in unexpectedly, but also made the audience feel totally safe, which is quite an achievement in a show about carnal desires.

The piece plays with the form itself, it is an incredibly self-aware production, talking openly about where we are and why we are here together. They have worked hard to ensure the show resonates with the performance space itself. Introducing the smells – particularly coffee - onto the music and words, to gain that added layer to build up the atmosphere.

If you would be up for an interactive Welcome to Nightvale style blend of normality and scalpel-sharp interrogation of our innermost terrors – brought to life by the great voices of a choral quartet this is the show for you. If you want a piece that pushes your expectations about form, modernity and your innermost desires, Our Carnal Hearts is for you.

Reviews by M Johnson

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

A Different Way Home

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

The Staff Room

theSpace on the Mile

The Sandman

Quaker Meeting House

The Emily Triptych

theSpace on North Bridge





The Blurb

'A Welcome to you and to me and our spikey, sticky, shameful bits!' With a raucous chorus of original music, award-winning theatre maker Rachel Mars and four belting female singers bring you a gleeful, dark show about the hidden workings of envy. Part symphony, part exorcism, Our Carnal Hearts is a thrilling, murky celebration of desire, competition and all the times we screw each other over. Performed with a surround sound choral score by Louise Mothersole, it comes to Summerhall after sell-outs across the UK and US. 'Artfully crafted and very funny' (NPR). ‘A little masterpiece’ (FuseboxFestival.com).