Like music, really – a response to The Bullet and the Bass Trombone

Getting out of the house of an evening is no longer a priority for me, having moved in with three decidedly interesting people. However, Saturday night saw me and new housemate Josh in the studio of the Royal Exchange. The show – The Bullet and the Bass Trombone, by Sleepdogs.

There’s a concert orchestra, trapped in a city during a military coup. As violence erupts, with pitched battles breaking out around them, the orchestra becomes separated – lost – trying to find their way back to each other.

Sleepdogs flyer.

I mean, it sounds brilliant already, right? It’s a one man show, it’s about music and war, and when we walk into the Studio (which is a fit space, by the way) it already looks intriguing. A table filled with music tech equipment against a copse of music stands. I’m ready for a decent night. I’m in the theatre, I’m with my mates, I’ve had my pre-show wee, and there’s going to be music. Colour me happy.

And then, there was the show.

It started.

It ended.

And it was… well… let me try and explain.

FUCKING HELL.

I was not expecting that. I was physically and emotionally drained and yet so awake and enthused and alive and THAT IS HOW YOU TELL A FUCKING STORY. And the music. The sound. Be still my beating heart, be still my throbbing ears. At one point I just closed my eyes and let it wash over me, a wave of visceral feeling and purity andyou know that feeling you get when you have those conversations at four in the morning or you stare for hours at a sunset or scream at the top of a mountain? That big feeling in your lungs? That. That was this show. It was fire.

The performer spun this web and we were – I was – completely caught. Trapped in a cacophony of sound, politics, danger, human life, and the raw grief of the man left behind to tell the story. I don’t feel like I’m doing it justice. I’ll give you a snapshot.

One of the orchestra, a woman, a trumpet player, keeps a diary throughout the coup. She’s trapped in her hotel room and all she has is her diary and her trumpet. And so she plays. She plays to the sound of gunfire in the street, to the sound of people screaming. She plays to keep the hunger away, to keep the fear away, to keep the devil away.

She’s reading from her diary in a voice that sounds of fear and passion, and the performer creates layer upon layer of music and sound until the words and rhythms and melodies crash and fuse and shake the walls and my ears are burning and my heart is pounding and it’s the closest thing to something, I don’t know the word, it’s just everything and everything and everything.

Fuck. I’m exhausted just writing about it.

This isn’t a show you see. This is a show you breathe, you hear, you feel in your arteries. It’s almost impossible to describe. Like music.

Sleepdogs are decidedly awesome, and you should check them out here.

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