The new Boulevard Theatre, Soho – Premiere of Ghost Quartet.
An innovative and exciting new theatre in the heart of Soho in Walker’s Court, this Soho Estates project is in the venue where Fawn James’s (director of Soho Estates) grandfather Paul Raymond opened the original Boulevard Theatre. The theatre building also houses a stylishly designed restaurant (where we ate a delicious meal) and bar area which is accessed via an elegant glass bridge which provides a great view of Soho below, and thankfully there’s still a little of the old Soho left; a couple of sex shops and a tattoo parlour flanking the alleyway, giving a reminder of everything Soho once was. Here at the Boulevard theatre, they celebrate its past with erotica prints adorning its powder pink walls.
This new venture is headed up by artistic director Rachel Edwards (Sweeney Todd – London & New York, Founder of Tooting Arts Club). The theatre itself is an intimate, beautifully designed 165 seater, which independently revolves, allowing for multiple configurations capable of physical rotation. The venue is presenting its own in house theatre productions along with a vibrant late-night programme of live music, comedy, spoken word, and cabaret.
I went along to see the opening production of American composer Dave Malloy’s song cycle Ghost Quartet; this thematic piece of musical theatre conjures up haunting tales of love and loss drenched in gallons of whiskey. The show brilliantly directed by Bill Buckhurst is framed in the context of a double album, with four sides each side telling a series of interwoven stories about sisters Rose and Pearl who are both in love with the same astronomer. Jealousy leads Rose to kill Pearl, Pearl’s spirit haunts Rose, she steals honey from a bear, stardust from an alchemist, baptises a baby this isn’t hers. Confused? Well, it is confusing … but it doesn’t really matter as what you experience through the beautifully executed music and alluring voices is a wonderful visceral sense of the ethereal world of the sisters.
This is Ghost Quartet’s first airing London; it has previously toured America and played the Edinburgh Fringe. Here at the Boulevard it is stunningly staged in the round, Simon Kenny’s set is redolent of the past, cluttered with dusty old trunks and suitcases, shelves stacked high with books and glass cabinets with taxidermy birds, instruments of every kind and a telescope – all with a tale to tell, it’s perfectly complemented by Emma Chapman’s mood evoking lighting, which swathes the set and takes us into blackout for ultimate effect.
The uber-talented cast of four actor-musicians – Carly Bawden, Maimuna Memon, Niccolò Curradi, and Zubin Varia play with a fine intensity an array of instruments, which along with their soulful voices envelope you in their weird and wonderful world of stories and folk tales from the past. Musically it’s a treat, a mish-mash of folk, hymns, and drinking songs. All four performers have strong mesmerising voices and sang exquisite harmonies, and both Carly and Maimuna’s vocals are electrifyingly pure and delicious.
Ghost Quartet is dark, atmospheric and intriguing, it presents a terrific psychological portrayal of two sisters, bathed in music. There was for me a lull during side three, but it picked up again, and there’s fun to had too, especially when the audience was invited to join in with a wee tipple during a marvellous whiskey drinking song and the finale was a stroke of genius – pure magic!
I look forward to returning to this fabulous new venue.
6 Walker’s Court,
Ghost Quartet runs from 24 October 2019 – 4 January 2020
Phone: 020 3968 6849
The Boulevard has its own restaurant which we will be covering in the next few days. If you want to dine somewhere else, check out our favourite Pre-Theatre menus