REVIEW: Dreams (Blackbird Ensemble)


Dangerous Dreaming [by Lucy Noonan]


This week Blackbird Ensemble have transformed The Basement into a magical boudoir complete with three beds, clouds, a glittery ladder and nine fabulous musicians for their latest show, Dreams.

As the audience finishes arriving, seven of the musicians gradually wake from their slumbers and begin to play their respective instruments. Almost instantly the audience is lulled into a beautiful dream land which, mixed with The Basement’s special on hot toddy’s becomes quite dangerous. The gentle lullabies make you want to curl up with the musicians in the onstage bed, unfortunately we are relegated to the seats. However there isn’t a single moment when you do not feel a part of their world. Even when the show seemingly takes breaks and the ensemble have a jam session or relax back on the beds while glasses of water are delivered to them, you find yourself relaxed and smiling along with them.

After the first lullaby the two vocalists (Mikey Brown and Jessie Cassin) join the stage and we are escorted through what is presumably both of their dreams, sometimes as a couple in duet form and individually as the other picks up an instrument. Musical director Claire Cowan, has chosen a diverse set that takes us from Mikey Brown’s haunting serenades to the more cabaret performances by Jessie Cassin. When the two come together it is nothing short of magical. Personal favourites are Don’t Smoke in Bed and I Had a Dream, Joe, the latter of which results in an explosion of feathers over the stage, adding to a perfectly crafted set designed by Daniel Williams.

The show is definitely an ensemble piece though and the orchestra are just as enthralling to watch, especially Callum Passells (saxophone, clarinet and accordion) who frequently steals the show. Each of the nine ensemble deliver strong and confident performances, never once shying away from the audience and embracing us into their world.

My fears that the music would be overwhelming in such a small intimate space, was quelled early on by Cowan and Tom Anderson (sound) who have made sure that the audience is entranced at all times. Claire Cowan and Renee Lyons have created one of the most beautiful shows I have seen on any stage and everyone in the show should be incredibly proud of themselves. This is a once in a lifetime, unmissable show for people of all tastes and inclinations who are ready to lose themselves to a night of magic.

Dreams is presented by  Blackbird Ensemble and plays at The Basement until 18 April. Details see The Basement

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