Writer: Paul Heaton, Che Walker
Director: George Perrin
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
It’s hard to know how to categorise The 8th. Is Paul Heaton’s epic work a song, a musical, an opera or a play. There are elements of all these but no clear answer on where the piece lays. From its gospel opening there are strong spiritual overtones in this journey through the seven deadly sins.
For former The Beautiful South frontman Heaton, it’s a shifting, evolving score that builds layer upon layer to create a rich vivid sound, but the epic nature also makes it a difficult piece to follow, especially in a festival environment such as Latitude.
Reg E Carthy’s fire and brimstone narration glues the piece together as each of the sins is voiced by a different singer. There are impressive vocal performances throughout as the sense of menace grows – each singer delivering their piece sermon like from the lectern.
While one can admire the musicality, as a production it falls somewhat flat. The narrative seems disjointed and despite the enthusiastic narration there’s little to hold the piece together as a coherent whole. It’s billed as one of the longest songs ever written but instead is a series of songs, held loosely together with an overarching narrative.
Heaton has collaborated with theatre company Paines Plough (the piece is directed by their Co-Artistic Director George Perrin) and there’s an attempt to give the piece some theatricality, however the staging is limited and one gets the feeling that one could easily achieve the same level of enjoyment sitting at home and listening to the CD.
Fans of Heaton’s work will find much to enjoy here, and indeed the music is something to savour, but as a dramatic piece there’s something missing. Perhaps its slightly down to the venue – standing for the duration of the piece makes it a draining experience both physically and emotionally but one can’t help feeling that, despite its potential, The 8th misses its mark.