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‘Blood Harmony’ review

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • 2 out of 5 stars
Blood Harmony, Traverse 2022
Photo by Lottie Amor

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Wildly cliched play with songs (by The Staves!) about three fractious sisters

This play with songs promises a lot, most notably music from all sister indie-folk trio The Staves.

But ‘Blood Harmony’ feels much less than the sum of its parts, and though the songs are pretty, they’re not originals. They feel shoehorned into Matthew Bulgo’s text as pleasant interludes rather than adding much to the action.

You can see the connection: The Staves are three sisters and ‘Blood Harmony’ is about three sisters; ‘blood harmony’ is a poetic term for the closeness of sibling voices when they sing together, and the sister characters sing together here. It all sort of fits but I can’t help but feel the prominence of the band’s name oversells how much they have to do with it.

Anyway: ‘Blood Harmony’ follows the sibling trio in the immediate aftermath of their mum’s death. It’s entirely set in the loft of their family home: sweet, nervy youngest Chloe (Eve de Leon Allen) was living there with their mother to the end. Maia (Kashini Misha), an addled fuck-up, is also on hand. And turning up late there’s Anna (Philippa Hogg), the horsey high flying one who has a fancy job somewhere abroad, and has hardly seen her family in recent years and intends to just make a flying visit here.

In its favour, it’s a genuinely heartfelt piece about family, death, estrangement and the need to heal and give each other space. Although the songs don’t specifically comment on the action on stage, they are nice interludes, almost framed like mini music videos as the actors break away from the action to move amount the house in a stylised fashion (choreographed by co-directors Jonnie Riordan and Jess Williams), illuminated by atmospheric, hitherto concealed lighting. 

The trouble is, the story is just reprehensibly flimsy and cliche-ridden. The three sisters are all such clangingly obvious ‘types’ that it’s faintly embarrassing, and the fact they’re all so clearly defined as drastically different to each other makes them feel even less plausible as siblings – most normal families don’t actually have a massive screw up and a massive high flyer in them. I don’t believe men can’t write good female characters, but it seems curious that a male writer decided to write about sisters rather than brothers – I wonder if ‘Blood Harmony’ might have felt more insightful if he’d stuck to his own sex. There’s the sneaky suspicion it fell like this purely as a tie to the music.

Regardless, the central plot is just daft, revolving as it does around the sisters trying to track down their mum’s will, which she hid before her death for reasons I’m still completely baffled by. 

It’s genuinely sweet and bighearted, but neither that nor the sprinkling of Staves songs can detract from the fact ‘Blood Harmony’ is fundamentally uninspired, a well-meaning play mired in cliche.

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski


£22, £17 concs. Runs 1hr 30min
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