Keli – A Live Preview

Apr 4 2022 | By More


Royal Lyceum Theatre: Sun 3 April 2022
Report by Hugh Simpson

In the middle of the Lyceum’s fortnight-long Wonder festival, packed with works in progress, Martin Green – one-third of the adventurous folk trio Lau – invited the world in to see and comment on his latest venture.

Besides his work in Lau, Martin Green has often branched out into other areas, including previous audio drama The Portal. But he has other irons in the fire. A resident in Midlothian mining country, Green has a keen interest in brass bands which has led to a brass-themed audio drama Keli, created in collaboration with Wils Wilson, which will be available from the Lyceum later in the month.

The Whitburn Band perform at the Keli preview. Pic: Claire Hutchins

This one-off live preview-cum-performance showcased some of the audio drama about a young tenor horn virtuoso – Keli – who does not have her problems to seek either in or out of the band room.

The dialogue is sparky and well observed. Some of it is decidedly adult and occasionally tends towards the clunky. The other character appearing in this preview, Willie, has a great deal to say about the necessity for international socialism. Even Tam Dean Burn, who would seem an obvious choice for the role, cannot quite always make it natural. There is nevertheless a wonderfully flinty edge to the characterisation.

No such problems with the other role portrayed here. Keli is a wonderfully rounded character, given life by Anna Russell-Martin in a tremendous performance – energetic, brittle and utterly human.

whet the appetite

There was certainly enough in the excerpt performed to whet the appetite for the full drama, and no-one would have felt short-changed by what else was on display.

Central to the performance were the Whitburn Band, multiple Scottish champions, under the baton of Bryan Allen and featuring soloist Sheona White on tenor horn.

Martin Green. Pic: Whitburn band Twitter: @whitburnband.

Combining live music, live acting and recorded sound is a notoriously tricky business, and Green, director Laura Carreira and Garry Boyle on sound should be congratulated for such a seamless production.

Green’s music (orchestrated by Benjamin Woodgate and Philip Sparke) dovetails excellently with the drama as well as being thoroughly captivating in its own right.

Green, who like many from the folk world has developed an easy-going, raconteurial speaking style, was charmingly illuminating on the background to the piece. Good use was made of the interviews which appeared in his excellent Radio 4 series on brass bands, Banding: Love, Spit and Valve Oil, which is unreservedly recommended and still (just about) available on BBC Sounds.

These recordings made plain the links between the band and the community that still supports them. How the feelings are unsurprisingly raw about the way these communities were torn apart in the name of industrial progress and the settling of old scores.

Such righteous anger pervaded the whole preview and will undoubtedly make Keli worth a listen.

Lyceum Soundstage: online
Tuesday 26, Wednesday 27 April
Evenings: 7pm
Information and tickets:

The three-part series, Love, Spit and Valve Oil can be heard at Act fast, though. The first part is only available until Wednesday 6 April.

Martin Green:
Twitter: @Martin_Green__
Facebook: @martingreenmusic


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