Review: Spaghetti Western Orchestra, Festival Theatre

Whistling is one of those things a lot of people think they’re good at, but not many actually are. Not nearly so many people even think they can get away with, say, using varying sizes of cornflake packet to depict a stealthy chase through the wilderness. ****

Luckily, as well as being consummate musicians, the Spaghetti Western Orchestra are excellent visual comedians and, more importantly, masters of sound.

The sounds in question are the Western soundtracks scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone and so familiar tracks from the Clint Eastwood “man with no name” trilogy, Once Upon A Time in The West and other perhaps less well known films are performed with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original.

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The sounds in this performance are big and atmospheric, but occasionally silly, and with sometimes oddly alternating sparks of humour, pathos and soul. When you think of the films and the soundtracks, though, that’s actually about right – jazz riffs creep in here and there, and there’s even a fun take on Metallica’s wander into the genre.

The crowd joins in on a soulful Marcetta from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, which could have easily led to lighters in the air, and there is a very unlikely singalong at the end. At times it does kind of feel like watching an action scene on BBC Radio 4 but that, overall, is a good thing.

Alongside the sound effects-based fun, clever use of silent movie conventions mixes up the genres and is a clever way of bringing the cinematic aspect to the stage, successfully keeping everyone in on the jokes, even in a large venue.

The orchestra has been going since 2007, and it does feel like a show which has grown in sophistication over time, with a lot of incredibly intricate timing and skill behind the apparent silliness.

To quibble for a moment, it surely hasn’t grown much in length. While leaving the audience wanting more is always a fine thing, the running time verges on the skinny side. But, overall, good performances of great tunes, wonderful stagecraft and a nice touch with the audience.