As the audience’s anxiety grows, so too the lighting became more anxiety-inducing, creating a feedback loop.
“The technical term would be arousal,” he clarifies. “The more elevated your physiological symptoms, the more the lighting continues to elevate them.”
The lighting created during the Barbican show has since been replicated across subsequent performances.
Henson seems to resent his reputation as broody and coy. He is forthcoming, even excitable, when talking about Lethargies.
“I think for once there’s actually something to talk about. Whereas otherwise I’m talking about a song which by definition talks about itself. With this, knowing a bit more about it helps you understand and enjoy it.”
He is conscious that the piece will be perceived as ‘brutally atonal’.
“It’s a really enjoyable evening,” he insists, describing the lingering, relaxed audience after the Barbican show, who hung around comparing notes in the courtyard.
“It is a pleasant experience, as much as I make it sound awful.”
He talks similarly about his reputation, saying that people often miss his humour: “Humour is a really important part of who I am. People think that I’m constantly miserable – but I’m not!”
Keaton Henson's Six Lethargies will be available to watch as part of the Opera House Digital Season from Friday 18th September.