Many people have played musical instruments in their youth, then given then up as life got busier. Some have even been in bands before other commitments took over. How many look back on those days with regret, wishing that they still played? This show is inspired by a friend of the creative team, Mark Lloyd, who – when diagnosed with terminal cancer and asked what he wanted to do in the time he had left – said “I want to put my old band back together”.
On a stage that looks appropriately ready for a rock concert, against a backdrop of amps draped with cables, the three performers move through the phases of realising Mark’s dream. They describe their show as an album to represent Mark’s life – though like an old-school vinyl that’s been flipped to side two, we pick up his story halfway through. Through a mixture of music, spoken word and physical theatre, all the emotions associated with the commitment to start playing again are explored: there’s anxiety, frustration that the music doesn’t come out the way you want it, hopefulness and fear. But the posters are up, and tickets are sold; there’s no backing out of it now.
It would be unfair to describe this show as the proverbial curate’s egg, good in parts, because the parts are all fine. It’s just that they don’t bind together very comfortably at times, leaving the performance feeling a little disparate and disjointed. It’s not a good sign when the performers feel the need to explain what they are doing: Ross Millard (of Futureheads fame) plays guitar and is there to represent the music, Alex Elliot, a tenor sax player, will personify the instruments, while Maria Crocker, desperate to play her recorder, will depict the emotions associated with playing music again. Millard is much more comfortable with playing the music than in any scripted parts, and sometimes the physical theatre seems a little off kilter – the portrayal of an unused clarinet in its box is an interesting vignette, but is out of keeping with the human emotions being explored.
On the other hand, the show has a lot of heart, Elliot supplies emotional depth and honesty as Mark, and Crocker brings enormous enthusiasm and warmth. The idea of a house band is wonderful as well: anyone who wants to play on stage with the company can join them for a rehearsal a couple of hours before the show (though do contact them first). It works perfectly, as the show moves up a notch when the house band comes on, and the joyful vision of a nervous musician or singer gaining confidence as they perform illustrates the point of the show. A late track “Go”, when the gig is almost upon them, is genuinely moving and uplifting.
This is a curiosity of a show, and while I would have liked a little more of Side 1 for context – an explanation of what’s missing from your life when you’re not playing – I think anyone with a love of music will enjoy it. And if you’re yearning to play again, hopefully you’ll find yourself inspired.