The Voice Thief, Summerhall, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Catherine Wheels
Gill Robertson (creator and artistic director Catherine Wheels) Ian Cameron (co-creator), Karen Tennent (designer and co-creator) Rob Alan Evans (writer), Danny Krass (sound designer), Kate Bonney (lighting designer), Alison Brown (costume supervisor), Paul Fitzpatrick (producer Catherine Wheels),Tommy Ga-Ken Wan (photo)

Ian Cameron (Dr Broderick Mackenzie), Jenny Hulse (Beatrice Mackenzie), Clare Willoughby (Violet), Isabelle Joss (Cora)

Running time

Welcome to the world of MIEVH – MacKenzie Institute for the Encouragement of Vocal Harmony

Catherine Wheels’ latest production created by Gill Robertson is a guided promenade through the laboratory of MIEVH run with showy razzmatazz by Dr Broderick Mackenzie (Ian Cameron).

The small audience of up to 30 at a time is greeted by Violet (Clare Willoughby) and Cora (Isabelle Joss), the lab’s lovely and stylishly cloned helpers/ hostesses. With matching auburn coiffures, and dressed in beautifully stylised dresses and ankle wellies in the show’s signature colours of pale green and red, they herd the group from room to room under benign control.

In a pseudo scientific atmosphere with walls full of colour coded charts (in green and red of course) and photos showing big names that have benefited from the Doctor’s skills, visitors to this Dahlesque world are duly processed and sanitised. Like a vocal version of entering the Botanics, visitors walk on spongy walkways through tickling stick dusters, soft scrubbers and plastic fringed doors for this cleansing procedure before donning masks and shoe coverings.

The Voice Thief has been created with incredible inventiveness exposing the suppression of not just women but of troublesome voices like a noisy cat or a girnie wean. The laboratory tour is clever and feels suitably cold and controlled alongside the slightly cabaret atmosphere. Cutting out some of this part, like lying down blindfold in a pink Bedouin style tent, would allow the cornucopia of detailed references in the magical Angela Carter style room that is visited later to be fully appreciated.

It is an intricate detailed fairytale setting that’s full of amazement and would work better as the core of the piece. It evokes wonder and questions like, how did that happen? Where is that sound coming from? How does wee Morag keep dancing in that jar? And then there is the disconcerting containment of these ubiquitous jars.

The real message of oppression and sinister male control becomes clear towards the end. The reality of the Doctor’s near dumbing operations room is pretty chilling. His daughter Beatrice, played brilliantly by Jenny Hulse, nurtures her own secret stash of stolen voices. There is true fairy tale redemption when she finds freedom and release by escaping with the hope of finding her lost mother who has sung to her from beyond like a lost siren.

The immersive experience of this vocal version of Stepford Wives can be a little scary but not half as scary as the fact of real people, particularly women, being silenced.

age group: 9+

Saturday 1st November until 15th November.
every Sat: 14.00 & 19.30, Sun: 11.00 & 15.00, Fri: 19.30

Ticket Price: £12.00 / £8.00
Group Price: School Price: £6.00
School Groups: every Tue - Thu 10.00 & 13.30 and Fri 10.00