Music Is Torture

“Keep going,” actor Andy Clark says repeatedly to the musicians behind the glass screen in the unsubtly-named Limbo Studio created on stage, ensuring that we find our seats accompanied by a regular single drum-beat. It’s hardly the most torturous of repetitive sounds around but, after just a few minutes, it’s a genuine relief when Louise Quinn’s play finally begins. But that title is almost a hostage to fortune; not torturous, but certainly tortuous.

This is a visually appealing, often funny twist on a familiar-enough narrative

Clark plays recording studio owner Jake, who’s been working on the same album by the same band for the last 15 years. Success, after one hit single, has passed him by. This information is rather clumsily info-dumped in conversations between Jake and his dole-claiming, ciggie-rolling “mate” Nick, who generally wanders through life with all the empathy and swagger of a toddler. Annoyingly, it’s never once made clear why either Jake or “Dawnings”—the band, played by Quinn’s own group, A Band Called Quinn—are taking so long; why either, in fact, would put up with the situation.

It’s a small detail that niggles, not least because it’s certainly not because “Dawnings” are rubbish. A Band Called Quinn, for the most part kept in the relative shadows of the recording booth, expertly perform an album’s worth of tracks which are, one imagines, meant to reflect and comment upon Jake’s gradual Mephistophelean fall when a joke dance track that’s the work of seconds—with the catchy, no-selling-out title “Kill Them All”—first of all becomes a You-Tube hit and then a big earner thanks to its alleged use by the US Government in its “enhanced interrogations”.

If you’re not a fan of A Band Called Quinn’s velveteen guitar pop, however, this cross between gig and play can feel lethargic and lacking in dramatic pace, despite the best efforts of the cast (Clark and Harry Ward as Nick) and the impactful video projections devised by Tim Reid. Creative ennui may well be at the heart of what’s going on here, but it’s a challenge to show that engagingly on stage—bells and whistles not withstanding, this isn’t the best, despite some scene-breaking choreography which livens up proceedings and effectively shows rather than tells Jake’s internal conflict.

This is a visually appealing, often funny twist on a familiar-enough narrative; and both Clark and Ward are excellent, the latter especially once he’s required to personify the more dangerous aspects of the world into which Jake has fallen. Music is Torture also plays well with the ways of social media but, in the end, this alleged insider’s view about the temptations of the music industry just doesn’t have the necessary lightness of touch.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn


One of Two

Scottish Storytelling Centre

Moira in Lockdown

Laughing Horse @ Bar 50

Love and Sex on the Spectrum

Royal Lyceum Theatre

Mrs Puntila And Her Man Matti


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Jake owns a recording studio. He's been recording the same album for the past 15 years. Everyone else gets the breaks. But, unbeknown to him, a potential windfall could be heading his way. He might just have to make a few... compromises.

Most Popular See More

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £46.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets