Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band changed my life forever

An evening of nostalgia was expected, and a two-man show (Isoceles in association with Useful Idiots) served this up at Colchester Arts Centre, with lashings of pathos on top. Half expecting a show full of obscure references to the Bonzos, I was slightly disappointed that there were few Doo-Dah Band in-jokes or tunes, however the compensation was that the show could be enjoyed by anyone. But it would help to be at least 55 to know all the songs.

The two actor/singers were playing a has-been minor rock performer, and a never-was Vivien Stanshall impersonator, both waiting to audition for a "60s, one-hit wonders tribute show". With a nod to "Waiting for Godot", the audition never happens, as the players philosophise on life, interweaving lyrics from popular songs, and singing much reduced versions with their two voices accompanied by an electronic keyboard.

It was a tragi-comedy, and I'm sure most of the audience empathised with the lives portrayed by the artists. And the final line of the show was (almost inevitably) "here comes the twist, I don't exist" as the stage fell into darkness.

So, did I enjoy it? Well yes, but part of the fun was the audience. Remember the comedy sketches about "the nut on the bus" that always chooses to sit on the empty seat sit next to you? Well folks, that was my evening out. Just before the start this very nervy man occupied the inviting seat that was left after all the other groups, couples and singletons has taken most of the other 52 seats. With his Sainsbury's plastic bag full of whatever he needed to get through the evening, he fidgeted all show, dipping into his wrestling and boxing mags whenever the lights came on. Various rocking movements, and the odd puff on some electronic gadget that "smoked" his cigarettes, suggested he was struggling with (giving up?) smoking. Now and then he would madly laugh at an inappropriate moment, and he had a bit of a personal hygiene problem too. During the songs he would sometimes stamp his feet, though clearly his brain was beating to an entirely different drum.

And behind me was a very old man with a massive white beard, who insisted on badly whistling the tune he had last heard, even though the actors had moved on to some poignant discussion on our pitiful existence. On occasion he also gave voice to his thoughts about the play, which were quite entertaining in their own right.

There were times when I wondered if I was sitting in the middle of some performance art project, and that hidden cameras were recording my reactions to these two crazy guys. There I was expecting carefully crafted references on stage, to "my pink half of the drainpipe", and "the doughnut in granny's greenhouse", and what I got was 360 degrees of live art.


  1. Hi Swifty,

    Sounds like the Edinburgh festival.....

    Sounds like, thankfully, you were able to see it all as part of the show and let it add to the experience if not the fun.


  2. Yes Al, you're right, I enjoyed the strange audience as part of the live experience. I once went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford, and had a guy with a big breathing problem sit next to me. He was so noisy, like having Darth Vadar next to me, that I really couldn't hear the play. Now that was slightly annoying!



Related Posts with Thumbnails