Writers: Louise Quinn, Bal Cooke, Ben Harrison, Pippa Bailey
Director: Ben Harrison
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
The Public Reviews Rating:
Pop music, film and theatre often make for uncomfortable bedfellows, in Biding Time(remix), A Band Called Quinn prove that they can happily marry these different disciplines to produce a gloriously original theatrical experience.
This tale of Thyme, a woman with a dream and the journey she takes on her path to success in the music industry, has developed from an audience participatory piece into this more powerful, collaborative work. A Band Called Quinn have taken the framework of Pippa Bailey’s 25 year old source work, but carved it in their own highly original image, with the inclusion of silent disco technology, film and live music.
It takes us from the initial euphoria of getting a record deal, into descent and decline, through; compromise, loss of identity, disconnection from what we hold dear, erosion of confidence, blatant misogyny, to being spat out at the other end of the process once you’ve failed to be the money-making commodity they desire. However cautionary this tale is, it ends optimistically, as the band emerge with their sanity and creativity intact.
The experience of wearing a headset throughout the performance draws the audience fully into the mind of Thyme, tantalisingly giving us the feeling that we are eavesdropping on someone’s dream, indeed so immersed are the audience in this private world, that there is a palpable sense of unease over whether it’s appropriate to applaud throughout lest we break the spell. The inclusion of Uisdean Murray’s dream and indeed, nightmare-like film sequences and the sinister presence of an Alice in Wonderland-like white rabbit, only serve to increase the feeling of having an out of body experience. But the real highlight of the performance is the band’s beautifully crafted music.
This is an innovative attempt at attracting a new audience to theatre and the inclusion of other art forms and technology make it an engaging one, but the real power and impact comes from having writers who have lived first hand this roller-coaster ride and who are brave enough to show us that, in the 25 years since the original piece was conceived, women’s treatment in the entertainment industry has changed little, if at all, and that is what gives the piece a truly authentic and memorable voice.
For years, Louise Quinn and her band, A Band Called Quinn, have been blurring the boundaries between music, film and theatre. With their music appearing in films and television series worldwide, riding high as the “soundtrack to Scotland” (so dubbed by Kayleigh Mcleod at Scottish Television Local), their track The Glimmer Song used for Scottish Television’s national ads and counting Madonna and author Ian Rankin among their fans, The Public Reviews‘ Lauren Humphreys chatted to Louise about her foray into theatre with the innovative Biding Time (remix).
Tell us a bit about Pippa Bailey’s musical theatre work Biding Timeand how you came to be involved in creating a remixed version of it.
The original concept by Pippa Bailey is about a woman called Thyme and her path to fame. Pippa provides the basic framework for the show but asks artists to put their own slant on it. We’ve worked with the theatre company Vanishing Point and its artistic director Matthew Lenton was at a conference with Pippa, who said she wanted to open the work up to artists worldwide and get their different responses to the source work. She expressed a desire to have a music industry slant put on it and, despite the original idea being 25 years old, the role of women in the business hasn’t really changed. I read it, realised it had parallels with my own story and thought OK, but I want to make it a lot darker and a lot more surreal.
So, what can we expect from your remixed version of Biding Time?
I think I can best describe it by saying that it will be like being inside someone’s head or going into another world – I hope it will be really transporting. There’s a silent disco in the show so that will give it an immersive quality, and that mixed in with all the visuals should make quite a strange experience for the audience as well as good fun. There’s a lot of humour in it too. Hopefully it will reflect the rollercoaster ride you go on from being discovered to the intoxicating feeling of fame, then realising the real dangers of the music business.
As you mentioned, you’ve been involved with theatre company Vanishing Point and its re-interpretation of The Beggar’s Opera which seemed to polarise critical opinion, attracting reviews ranging from one to five stars. When you were working on it, did you ever imagine it would provoke such strong critical reactions?
It felt quite intense in places when we were working on it. The intention was to do something radical to get a younger audience into a theatre [the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh] whose patrons were literally dying off. So I suppose it did what it said on the tin. If it had been on at a different theatre, it would have got a very different reaction. There were older audience members who loved it too, but it was a work that was constantly being tweaked. By the time it got to its final venue I think it was finished but it could have been a great piece if we had more time to marry the music to the dialogue.
You describe your band’s music as “art pop” and your gigs have been described as theatrical, having been wheeled into one gig in a cardboard box and carried onstage by a gorilla in another – how have you developed your performance style?
I was always a shy kid but one of those annoying ones who’s always putting on shows in the living room. I wanted to study art but instead went to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly RSAMD) to study production. I left in my third year to pursue a career in the music industry but eventually went on to have a “day job” with Bal from the band, in surrealist, interventionist theatre company Mischief La Bas, so with that background and the fact that we’ve never been afraid to cross over into different art forms, it was probably inevitable we would be theatrical.
With your music currently being featured in Scottish Television’s national commercial, how has having your music on TV every evening affected the bands profile?
Apart from my mum and dad now realising that I’m not just messing around, it’s been great to go out into the wider world and hear people talking about our work. The response has been fantastic.
Many of your songs have been featured in films and TV series; do you think you might pursue writing soundtracks specifically?
We’re getting a lot of calls, and we’re definitely getting a reputation as a band who sound good on film, so hopefully we can pursue that.
What next for you and A Band Called Quinn?
Firstly, we’ve been trying to release our album Red Light Means Go for a few years, the songs have been used in the BBC’s Lip Service and Carter Ferguson’s film Fast Romance, and finally it’ll be released on 1st November to coincide with some live shows we’re doing. After that we hope that the music written for this show will appear on its own album and hopefully Biding Time (remix) will have a future – we’re working with filmmaker Uisdean Murray to take the visual content of the show and make it into a feature-length film.
A review of A Band Called Quinn’s Biding Time (remix) will be published next week.