REVIEW: Cryptic presents The Embassy – CCA, Glasgow

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Conceived by Josh Armstrong, Cryptic’s new cross-art form experience invites audiences to indulge their senses and spend the night on foreign soil. The Embassy is a simulation of an envisioned future, through the lens of the Embassy of New Great Britain. The evening’s entertainment includes the performance of New Great Britain’s quintessential tribute, Requiem for a World – commissioned music from composer David Donaldson, scored for counter-tenor Steve Dugardin and Astrid String Quartet.

The aim of The Embassy is to fuse performance, live music, food and drink, offering its audience an immersive experience. It is, as it is no doubt intended to be, difficult to categorise. However there seem to have been a preponderance of interactive theatrical experiences recently and we are now at the point where one has to look much harder for the original rather than the derivative.

In design and execution The Embassy is much like an episode of Dr. Who but with none of the whimsical charm. There is much in the idea but it just doesn’t succeed in the execution. The evening doesn’t fuse together as a cohesive whole: the design and idea, rather than being futuristic just seemed dated and lacking in focus. The rather unrehearsed looking dancers lacked a stylistic vision and the “meal” of molecular gastronomy bits and bobs was lacking in taste and variety. On a positive note, the inventive drinks menu including pheromone cocktails was heartily embraced by the “guests”. The undoubted standout highlight of the evening though,  is the music by David Donaldson, sung by the astonishingly talented Steve Dugardin  and played by the Astrid String Quartet. Its stunning inventiveness and melodic beauty was mood altering.  There were tantalising glimpses of what the evening could have been – a clearer artistic vision and stronger direction could have made this much more than it was.

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