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Daphne Oram's Wonderful World of Sound

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

It was a ghost in the machine, it seems, who inspired an already curious Daphne Oram to pursue her fascination with electronically generated sounds. The most famous result of the seance held by the Wiltshire teenager's parents was Oram's key role in the founding of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. As Paul Brotherston and Isobel McArthur's restlessly engaging dramatic portrait of Oram makes clear in words and music, however, Oram was much more than that.

On a stage peopled with pukka post-war sorts, McArthur's Daphne takes the microphone to address the audience in immaculate cut-glass tones. As her amplified words are distorted, it becomes the perfect illustration of how Oram's pioneering experimental compositions were by turns mocked, sidelined and airbrushed away by a patriarchal BBC.

This is played out by a wonderfully engaging McArthur and the four male actors who pivot around her central presence with a cartoon-like playfulness. Such glorious irreverence has become something of a stock-in-trade of the Blood of the Young company, directed by Brotherston in co-production with the Tron as part of the theatre's Mayfesto season.

Key to the experience is the presence of contemporary sonic alchemist Anneke Kampman, who provides an electronically generated score worthy of Oram herself. In a show developed out of the host venue's Tron Theatre CREATIVE initiative, Brotherston navigates his cast around Ana Ines Jabares-Pita's retro-styled set with confidence and flair.

As we zone in on Oram's later years, the play goes beyond electronic archaeology to get to the heart of an entire society in motion. Daphne Oram's world isn't just about sound. It's about a woman's right to be heard at every level.
The Herald, May 15th 2017


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