We Are In Time is a striking new theatrical production – and a bold collaboration between four forward-thinking companies and artists directed by Stewart Laing – founder and Artistic Director of Untitled Projects, and one of Scotland’s most forward-thinking theatre-makers – the production also features a new score from Bedroom Community artist Valgeir Sigurðsson and an ambitious new role for Scottish Ensemble musicians, who will act as an on-stage chorus as well as performing live.
Through song, instrumental music and words, audiences will be told the extraordinary story of a transplanted heart, written by Pamela Carter. Led by a narrator (Scottish actress Alison O’Donnell, well-known for her roles in BBC crime drama Shetland as well as Holby City and more) audiences will be guided through the story of two people about to be irrevocably connected through an incredible scientific feat: the transfer of a life from one body to another.
Jodie Landau, from Iceland’s renowned Bedroom Community label and a frequent collaborator of Valgeir Sigurðsson, will play the part of the heart donor whilst the highly acclaimed mezzo-soprano Ruby Philogene will take on the role of the heart recipient. Each waiting on their separate beds, through song – with a libretto by Carter, set to new music by Sigurðsson – they reflect on the end and beginning of life, set to a backdrop of medical information highlighting the virtuosic, precise, extraordinary feat achieved by a team of surgeons, all moving with perfect synchronicity, all in time.
Researching the piece, Carter spent time in Glasgow’s Golden Jubilee National Hospital with the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service speaking to the medical staff, as well as patients awaiting a heart transplant, about their experiences. She even attended two open heart surgeries, and was struck at how compelling and choreographic the operations were in nature. She drew parallels between surgery staff and the musicians of the SE: both technically skilful, delicate and perfectly coordinated. These characteristics fed into her work on the project, which reflects both human fragility and remarkable human resilience and capability.
The production will feature a new score for strings, electronics and two voices by highly-lauded Icelandic composer/producer Valgeir Sigurðsson. Known for creating music that defies categorisation and expectations, Sigurðsson melds contemporary classical and enigmatic electronica to create new sound worlds that are at once minimal and complex, beautiful and absorbing.
Performing Valgeir’s score, the 12 Scottish Ensemble musicians will become a living, breathing element of the on-stage world; at once providing the soundtrack, acting as curious witnesses to the unfolding drama, and doubling as a chorus. This involves not only singing on stage – a nerve-wracking feat for many people – but also the added challenge of learning a lot of lines. The players of the SE are not unfamiliar with pushing the boundaries of what an orchestra can be, however; in their collaboration with Andersson Dance on Prelude: skydiving from a dream last season, the musicians doubled as dancers. It’s safe to say, though, that their role in We Are In Time is the musicians’ biggest challenge yet.
We Are In Time will tour to Perth Theatre (25-26 Feb 2020 – preview 25th), the Tramway in Glasgow (28-29 Feb), the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh (3 Mar – 4 Mar) and Eden Court in Inverness (6 Mar).