Dann Rail is an eccentric resident of a town called Quinnipak. He’s acquired a patent to make glass bigger than anyone’s ever achieved, and wishes to collaborate with an ambitious architect to create a crystal palace made entirely out of glass. Meanwhile, kooky musician Pekisch raises his adopted son, Pehnt, while working in the town as a teacher and conductor.
A wide range of innovative methods of creating music are used; I was surprised to hear how powerful and full an orchestra of megaphones could sound.
The world of Quinnipak is filled with music and glass, and the show brings the two together to achieve wondrous effects. An orchestra of instruments have been made out of glass specially for this show: a glass xylophone; glass chimes; drinking glasses that hum varying musical pitches. These instruments come together to create a gorgeous new timbre of sound - they made me think of pebbles falling in a pond, ringing out in a secluded place. The music is beautifully written, and Beccy Owen, playing the narrator, sings exquisitely, skipping octaves with ease and with a warm, folky sound, carrying an air of haunting regret.
However, the plot, adapted from a novel, (by Alessandro Baricco, with the same title), often feels too big and complex to be fitted into a one-hour show. The actors double up on roles for the two narrative strands, making some of the scenes difficult to follow. At the end of the show, we’re still confused as to how exactly the narrator (who opens and closes the show) relates to the rest of the characters. Also, some of the performers are clearly primarily musicians before actors or singers: while Owen is a very talented singer, the rest of the players’ vocal powers are noticeably weaker.
These flaws, however, are redeemed by the show’s lovely music. A wide range of innovative methods of creating music are used; I was surprised to hear how powerful and full an orchestra of megaphones could sound. The music during the St Lawrence’s Day Fete scene was particularly marvellous. Although it’s not without weaknesses overall, this show is worth seeing for the superb music alone.