• Highly-acclaimed team of writer, director, composer and orchestra collaborate on an innovative cross-artform project
• We Are In Time follows the journey of a transplanted heart, told through the stories of the donor and the receiver
• Features a new score from ground-breaking Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson
• Part of Scottish Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Season
• We Are In Time takes place on Tue 25 and Wed 26 Feb (Perth Theatre; preview on Tue 25) / Fri 28 and Sat 29 Feb (Tramway, Glasgow) / Tue 3 and Wed 4 Mar (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh) and Fri 6 Mar (Eden Court, Inverness)
• Tickets on sale at scottishensemble.co.uk

About the production

Valgeir Sigurðsson

Pamela Carter

Musical Director
Jonathan Morton

Stewart Laing (Untitled Projects)

Alison O’Donnell

Ruby Philogene
Jodie Landau

We Are In Time is a striking new theatrical production – and a bold collaboration between four forward-thinking companies and artists directed by Stewart Laing – founder and Artistic Director of Untitled Projects, and one of Scotland’s most forward-thinking theatre-makers – the production also features a new score from Bedroom Community artist Valgeir Sigurðsson and an ambitious new role for Scottish Ensemble musicians, who will act as an on-stage chorus as well as performing live.

Through song, instrumental music and words, audiences will be told the extraordinary story of a transplanted heart, written by Pamela Carter. Led by a narrator (Scottish actress Alison O’Donnell, well-known for her roles in BBC crime drama Shetland as well as Holby City and more) audiences will be guided through the story of two people about to be irrevocably connected through an incredible scientific feat: the transfer of a life from one body to another.

Jodie Landau, from Iceland’s renowned Bedroom Community label and a frequent collaborator of Valgeir Sigurðsson, will play the part of the heart donor whilst the highly acclaimed mezzo-soprano Ruby Philogene will take on the role of the heart recipient. Each waiting on their separate beds, through song – with a libretto by Carter, set to new music by Sigurðsson – they reflect on the end and beginning of life, set to a backdrop of medical information highlighting the virtuosic, precise, extraordinary feat achieved by a team of surgeons, all moving with perfect synchronicity, all in time.

Researching the piece, Carter spent time in Glasgow’s Golden Jubilee National Hospital with the Scottish National Advanced Heart Failure Service speaking to the medical staff, as well as patients awaiting a heart transplant, about their experiences. She even attended two open heart surgeries, and was struck at how compelling and choreographic the operations were in nature. She drew parallels between surgery staff and the musicians of the SE: both technically skilful, delicate and perfectly coordinated. These characteristics fed into her work on the project, which reflects both human fragility and remarkable human resilience and capability.

The production will feature a new score for strings, electronics and two voices by highly-lauded Icelandic composer/producer Valgeir Sigurðsson. Known for creating music that defies categorisation and expectations, Sigurðsson melds contemporary classical and enigmatic electronica to create new sound worlds that are at once minimal and complex, beautiful and absorbing.

Performing Valgeir’s score, the 12 Scottish Ensemble musicians will become a living, breathing element of the on-stage world; at once providing the soundtrack, acting as curious witnesses to the unfolding drama, and doubling as a chorus. This involves not only singing on stage – a nerve-wracking feat for many people – but also the added challenge of learning a lot of lines. The players of the SE are not unfamiliar with pushing the boundaries of what an orchestra can be, however; in their collaboration with Andersson Dance on Prelude: skydiving from a dream last season, the musicians doubled as dancers. It’s safe to say, though, that their role in We Are In Time is the musicians’ biggest challenge yet.

We Are In Time will tour to Perth Theatre (25-26 Feb 2020 – preview 25th), the Tramway in Glasgow (28-29 Feb), the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh (3 Mar – 4 Mar) and Eden Court in Inverness (6 Mar).

We Are In Time is presented in association with Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts

Statements from the collaborators

Pamela Carter, Writer, said: “Working on this project has been a truly unique and eye-opening experience. As part of my research I spent time at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital near Glasgow and was lucky enough to witness open-heart surgery. I was struck by the parallels between the medical staff and musicians of this project: their individual brilliance and their teamwork; their mastery of technologies, and their exquisite timing. Working with music is a new experience for me, and seeing how Valgeir Sigurðsson’s score and the performance of the Scottish Ensemble players fits around the story has been tremendously exciting”

Stewart Laing, Director, said: “I’m directing the project and I’m excited to be staging this original new commission. I’ve directed several operas in the past and this one feels very different and very contemporary – it’s about modern science and advances in medical procedures – and that feels quite unusual for a piece of music theatre. We have two amazing singers in Jodie and Ruby, an excellent group of artists designing costumes, video and light, and the players of the ensemble are world class musicians. It is all coming together thanks to an exceptional team – and I’m very much looking forward to working with them”

Jonathan Morton, Artistic Director of Scottish Ensemble said: For this 50th Anniversary season, we wanted to go back to our roots, and celebrate the practice of story-telling through song which marked the launch of Scottish Ensemble back in 1969 at Ledlanet Nights. We also wanted to explore creative ways of meshing together song, instrumental music, and narrative content – and so gathered the largest team of collaborators to date. Working and developing ideas with Director Stewart Laing, writer Pamela Carter and composer Valgeir Sigurðsson has been wonderful so far, and I am really looking forward to the moment when all of the performers and the creative team meet in the same room and start putting the show together. I hope that the interweaving of a powerful human story, scientific virtuosity, vivid electro-acoustic sound worlds, and distinctive singing voices will cohere beautifully.”

Valgeir Sigurðsson, composer, said: There are so many layers in this production. Firstly, it’s almost a “musical TED-talk” where we hear scientific details and describe the medical procedures in a compelling way. Secondly, it has elements of a religious procession in the teams of surgeons, scientists and hospital staff, who take on a god-like role and go to extreme measures to extend life. And at the centre of all this is the ultra-human story of life and death, and the struggles and complex emotions of our protagonists. I’m trying to use all of these perspectives as the basis for my music.

We Are in Time presents so many challenges for me as a composer, but it has been thrilling to dig into Pamela’s deep research; the medical procedures and the science and history of organ donation, and it is been an absolute joy to set her text to music. Stewart’s staging will need to involve some complex choreography for the Scottish Ensemble players, who will not only be playing their instruments, but also take on acting- and singing-roles.”