We Will Hear the Angels

Feb 8 2023 | By More

Work in Progress

Fruitmarket: Fri 27/Sat 28 Jan 2023
Review by Thom Dibdin

Chaos reigns, or at least that is the illusion, in the opening scenes of Magnetic North’s We Will Hear the Angels, playing as a work in progress for two performances only at the Fruitmarket gallery.

Of course this is all a very controlled chaos, which will eventually dissipate into some kind of calm, like waves dying away on a pond, with the audience seated in a great circle round the walls of the Fruitmarket’s new stripped-back Warehouse gallery – formerly Buster Browns nightclub and most recently the Electric Circus.

A scene from We Will Hear The Angels. Pic Jassy Earl

For the start, though, four of the five cast march agitatedly around, taking the various seats and desks from one part of the stage to another. Only Apphia Campbell brings any real stasis as she sits at a table, folding and packing clothes into a suitcase. Yet even she is agitated in her precise hand movements.

It is hard to discern what is happening here. There are instruments and microphones dotted around. Music feels promised. A speech or two, perhaps. Writer, co-director and performer Nicholas Bone and video designer and co-director Marisa Zanotti obviously have something in mind; unpicking it is not so easy.

Daniel Padden has four water glasses of different sizes on his desk. A guitar, too, that he plucks. Nicholas Bone has dead roses. Mia Scott tears up pieces of paper and strings notes together on a violin. Greg Sinclair has a cello and notes to write, hidden in the depths of his table.


There are stories to tell, dropping more ripples into the pool. Bone tells of a friendship that turns to mutual trust and, he begins to think, maybe to love; Campbell of meeting a woman in a gallery and inviting her to a party in her home. Sinclair looks out of his window, inventing realities for the man he sees in the flats opposite.

Daniel Padden in We Will Hear The Angels. Pic Jassy Earl

Padden wets a finger and draws big resounding notes from the glasses at his desk. Maybe each represents a different one of the other performers, as he takes a camera and goes round to each in turn, each filling out the finale to the previous story fragment.

The older man who discovers that the younger woman loves him as an uncle. The woman who sees the invited stranger in a mirror, revealing that she is no stranger to the husband. The frisson of energy in meeting someone in the flesh whose actions have only been guessed at before.

There is a resounding melancholy to it all, mightily magnified when Bone begins to sing a powerfully unadorned version of Hank Williams’ I’m so Lonesome I could Cry. And even more plangent again in Sinclair’s take on Orange Juice’s Rip It Up.

out of the shadows

But it is the final act of the piece where the angels do become audible. Padden, Sinclair, Scott and Bone meet in the centre of the room, nodding familiarly to each other, to form a guitar, violin and cello quartet. Campbell steps out of the shadows to let her voice rip and soar into the bare brickwork and structural metal of the old market, with a truly coruscating version of Etta James’ I Would Rather Go Blind.

Apphia Campbell in We Will Hear The Angels. Pic Jassy Earl

Billed “as a performance exploring the strange power of sad music, inspired by Rear Window, Anton Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield”, there is clearly more structure to be found in We Will Hear the Angels that will take it up a step from being a rather wonderful experience.

At the moment it works on an atavistic level, calling to something deep and innate through its exploration of melancholy. The hypnotic opening certainly helps, a theatrical equivalent of counting down from one hundred. The story fragments chime best with those who are familiar with their source, but still resonate beyond that.

It would not work as well as it undoubtedly does without the restrained deliveries from all five performers. As actors, as singers and as musicians they ensure that this is calm but never plodding and that the climactic performance grows naturally out of what has come before.


They are named as characters in the programme: Campbell is Bea, Padden is Louis and Sinclair is Ian, while Scott is Sonia and Bone is Van. But these names feel divorced from the performances which seem to rise from the souls of the performers themselves.

A scene from We Will Hear The Angels. Pic Jassy Earl

Nor would it work as well without the prowess of a technical team who ensure that the whole passes without a glitch. Sound engineer Dave Waugh should take bow for overcoming the difficulties of amplifying voices and music into this space.

We Will Hear the Angels is a beautiful and atmospheric piece that it feels privileged to have witnessed in its current form, but which leaves you wondering where the next step in its development will take it.

Fortunately, it is just the first fruit of Magnetic North’s three month residency in the Fruitmarket space. The similarly resonant and atmospheric Walden, is to be revived at end of March (Wed 29 – Sat 1 April), with a newly commissioned artwork response by Harvey Dimond.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Fruitmarket, 45 Market Street, EH1 1DF
Fri 27- Sat 28 Jan, 2023.
Fri: 7pm, Sat: 6pm.
Run ended.

Fruitmarket, 45 Market Street, EH1 1DF
Wed 29 Mar – Sat 1 Mar, 2023.
Evenings: 7pm, Sat mat: 3pm.
Further details: Book here.

Magnetic North website: magneticnorth.org.uk

Twitter: @magnorththeatre
Facebook: @magnorththeatre
Instagram: @magnetic_north_theatre

Fruitmarket website: www.fruitmarket.co.uk


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