A POP opera about death premiers in Glasgow this week before touring to Edinburgh and Dundee in March.

The Dark Carnival teams new songs by eight-piece cabaret band A New International to a story by Matthew Lenton, director of multi-award-winning theatre company Vanishing Point.

Set in a cemetery, the “music and theatre spectacle” sees the eight-piece band take the stage to play live alongside another eight other performers from the Citizens’ Theatre and the Dundee Rep Ensemble.

The latter’s Ann Louise Ross stars as Mrs Eugenia Mark, the stoical leader of a group of revolutionaries inhabiting the cemetery’s underground levels; members of an afterlife who have discovered that death is not the end.

Through song, spoken word and visuals, The Dark Carnival tells of these “necropolitans”, those who, rather than being a bit glum at not being alive any more, spend much of their time partying.

“There’s a drunken angel hanging about in the clouds higher up, seeing it all,” says Biff Smith, frontman of A New International.

“You see the cemetery above and below the ground and our band is basically the house band in the Underworld.”

Lenton handpicked the Glasgow band after hearing their dramatic mix of flamenco, chanson, cabaret and carnival. Smith, who is also A New International’s accordion-player, says an album of the Dark Carnival songs is being pressed as we speak.

“When Matt showed me the story, it had this anarchic quality I liked,” Smith says. “It reminded me of Kurt Weil, of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Frank-N-Furter was a big hero for me. I always liked the baddies more than the people you were meant to like, they were always more interesting.”

This is the first time Smith has worked with theatrical collaborators but not his first inroad into fiction: in 2016 he wrote a book of stories to accompany A New International’s first album Come To The Fabulon.

“I found it helped me in terms of writing,” says Smith, who has been writing songs since the mid-1990s when he was the frontman of indie band The Starlets. He’s just finished a day of rehearsals for the vivid-looking show, which features set and costumes by Dundee Rep stage designer Kenneth MacLeod.

“It’s stunning, really beautiful,” says Smith. “It reminds me of Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd, dark with these bright colours; very sumptuous to look at.”

He adds: “I’m a big cabaret fan, both the film and the genre, of that idea of creating something out of the ordinary, whether it’s set underground or off the street. Things that are often overlooked is what interests me. Though I never thought I would be writing a concept album about death, it was good to write about someone else’s weeping soul for once instead of my own.”

It’s not a downer though, he says: there’s “just enough doom and gloom” and plenty of dark, ribald humour.

In May, Smith stars in a smaller-scale version of the production with storyteller Robert Jack. The Dark Carnival: Unplugged will travel to theatres, halls and even a graveyard – the grounds of Paisley Arts Centre.