Ghost Quartet

Dave Malloy

Roundabout @ Summerhall

From 04 August 2016 to 28 August 2016

Rating: *****

Review by Philip Fisher

Britain is fortunate to have an opportunity to see Ghost Quartet and anybody within reach of Edinburgh should not miss out on this delight from New York.

The show is impossible to categorise. Is it a concept album played live, a musical, a theatrical performance or a concert? It is all of these and none. Similarly, the musical styles vary, influences possibly including Nick Cave, Laurie Anderson and Rebecca Pidgeon, although the variety is such that maybe the only true progenitor is Dave Malloy, who has created the music, lyrics and text.

Malloy is best known as the man behind a major off-Broadway hit, described on Wikipedia as an “electropop opera”, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, which is due to open on Broadway this fall.

Whatever it is, Ghost Quartet delivers an intoxicating 70 minutes. It is structured as a four-sided album and presented by four talented performers, playing numerous instruments.

They also gently enlist audience assistance, where more players are needed than available, building to a remarkable finale.

The story mixes ancient and modern, drawing on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher. The major themes are love and death, hence the Nick Cave association, with sisterhood also significant as Rose and Pearl’s relationship is explored in depth.

The atmosphere may be dark but it is always playful and tuneful, aided by the presence of four fine musicians. Keyboard player Malloy is supported by Brent Arnold, Gelsey Bell and Brittain Ashford, directed by Annie Tippe.

It may not be easy to categorise but Ghost Quartet should be on everyone’s must see/hear list in 2016.