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Review: Behaviour

In May

In May

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Letters from a dying man to his father... On paper, it seemed as if this one-off performance would, like Hate Radio - the other weekend event in the Arches Behaviour season - be anything but an easy listen. An hour or so after the opening shimmer of lyrical strings from the Ligeti Quartet (with Samuel Rice), however, and In May had proved not just tender on the ear but more of an uplifting love letter to life than a grim farewell epistle.

Neil Hannon - yes, the same man behind pop group Divine Comedy - has composed evocatively nuanced music that reads between the lines of Frank Buecheler's imagined (and one-sided) correspondence in which stoic emphasis is on the factual and the avoidance of self-pity, even when cherished childhood memories crowd in. We know about this because, still in her mourning black, Anna (Leentje Van de Cruys) musingly sings the letters aloud.

Here are the excluding commands - to his lover Anna, and his father - to stay away. And it is this desire to hide away, as if in a complex denial of both death and life, that Hannon's score for piano and string quintet so astutely gives the lie to, in its tapestry of moods.

For while some passages are meditative or wistful, others are gloriously energised with the joy of being alive to nature, the seasons and music itself.

These emotional shifts are echoed in the video projections that fill the empty frames that hang behind the minimal set: music staves fill with notes that morph into merry birds as the days turn from the autumn of diagnosis through a winter of uncertainties to the exuberant, ecstatic vitality of spring that lends such poignancy to death In May.

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