“I’ve got 1001 stories and every single one of them is a lie,” sings Gelsey Bell in the opening number of Dave Molloy’s darkly atmospheric song cycle.
Star rating: ****
Venue: Roundabout @ Summerhall (Venue 26)
So we know at the outset that there are tall tales here, and, in the best traditions of telling ghost stories in the dark, if the mood is right, we’ll probably believe them anyway.
New York based Molloy is known as the writer of the off-Broadway hit musical, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, an adaptation of part of War and Peace, which will open this November. Ghost Quartet is on a more intimate scale, but this only adds to the atmosphere.
Don’t ask me what it’s about. There’s a broken camera, an astronomer who lives in a treehouse, two (possibly jealous) sisters, a man who dies under a subway train. At one point, a talking bear puts in an appearance. The action moves backwards and forwards in time. Some of the characters are related. There are ghosts.
But all this is secondary to the way the stories are told. The four musicians – Bell, Molloy himself, Brittain Ashford and Brent Arnold – not only sing but play a dazzling range of instruments between them. Bell and Ashford create some devastatingly fine harmonies. The musical style shifts from one song to the next, touching on folk ballad, gospel, doo-wop and jazz, to name a few.
Although the in-the-round setting of the Roundabout @ Summerhall restricts what the company is able to do with design, and doesn’t leave much room beyond what they need for themselves and their instruments, they manage to create a sense of intimacy and mystery. Casting their spell over the audience, they invite us into their weird, melodic, occasionally disturbing world and send us out into the Edinburgh night just a little bit haunted.
Until 28 August. Today 9pm.