In these uncertain times it’s good to see some artists rising to the challenge of reflecting and exploring the undercurrent of weirdness running through society. A case in point is Scottish Opera’s new production of a brand new work – The Trial. Commissioned in partnership with a consortium of groups including Music Theatre Wales and the Royal Opera, it’s written by none other than influential contemporary composer Phillip Glass.
The paranoia and absurdity in Franz Kafka’s chilling tale of a man lost in an illogical system seems eerily prescient in this strange age of shifting truths and false news. Glass uses his trademark repetitive structures, discordant stings and flattened melodies to create an air of unreality and chilling horror as Josef K descends into a quagmire of bureaucratic madness which denies his very identity. Shades of Kurt Weill and Eastern bloc marches haunt the soundtrack while flat, angular stage designs invoke a cold German expressionist vibe. Of course no dystopia would be complete without a liberal splash of black humour and librettist Christopher Hampton delights in Kafka’s jokes as much as his drama.
Directed by Michael McCarthy and Sung in English, the superb ensemble cast includes Nicholas Lester (Don Pasquale 2014), Paul Carey Jones (Inês de Castro 2015), and three of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artists 2016/17 – Emma Kerr, Hazel McBain, and Elgan Llyr Thomas. The small orchestra is conducted by Scottish Opera’s head of Music, Derek Clark.
This is Glass’s 26th musical theatre work and Scottish Opera have pulled off a bit of a coup with their involvement in its creation. The spiky score and bleak subject might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s unlikely you’ll find a high profile stage production that’s more in tune with these unsettling times.
Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 3QA Tue 24 Jan 7.15pm•Thu 26 Jan 7.15pm•Sat 28 Jan 7.15pm
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street, Edinburgh EH3 9LQ Fri 3 Feb 7.15pm•Sat 4 Feb 7.15pm