Brighton Fringe 2008
Eyes Down! Bingo With Ida Barr
Sold out 2006 and 2007 so book early and get yer eyes down for housy-housy, top quality (Poundstretcher) prizes and gangsta grandma rap courtesy of ex-music hall star Ida Barr.
By now a Fringe fixture – Bingo With Ida Barr sold out at the Brighton Fringe in 2006 and 2007 – 2008 sees Christopher Green brings his drag act with a difference back to the Udderbelly.
Ida Barr is a step up – perhaps a zimmerframe assisted step – from your usual drag show. Whilst there is a smattering of cruel (and very funny) humour at the audience’s expense, the rest of the show is a warmer and more rewarding experience than the Coco Peru’s of this world.
For a start, Green has created a detailed and fully-rounded character with an extensive biography and CV: Ida is a former music hall star who has been forced out of retirement by her meagre pension and has decided to update her act, becoming a rapper.
Summarized so briefly, the concept might sound obvious, but it is anything but; this is an affectionate and complex portrait based upon a real music hall star of the same name. It is also incredibly funny. The highlight of the show is a head-spinningly clever rap set to the backing of Estelle’s American Boy, about Ida’s brief acquaintance with Enoch Powell in 1968; the song revolves around Ida lending Enoch a fiver which she subsequently realises he’s used as bus fare on the way to make his Rivers of Blood speech, and it’s packed with comic gems that fly past at breakneck speed. Ida also performs a reworked version of Ottowan’s D.I.S.C.O (“She is B! Bingo bonkers, She is I! Irene’s mother, She is G! Gaga for Bingo” and so on) that had audience members literally howling with laughter.
The bingo itself is hugely enjoyable and surprisingly challenging for the amateur player. Green satirises bingo culture (is that an oxymoron?) with gleeful wit, and his inventive and unexpected substitutions for traditional bingo calls mean that the humour level never drops (“28 – Terry Wait, my favourite hostage. He had a lot of dignity”, “14 – oppressive regime”). The show is punctuated with anecdotes about Ida’s life in sheltered accommodation, and references to the seriously bargain-basement prizes up for grabs (like 24 superglues and a packet of Tunnocks Snowballs).
For this reviewer, Christopher Green – with the assistance of some carefully selected Poundstretcher prizes – provided the most entertaining evening of the festival, despite a somewhat chaotic ending to the show in which a mass conga line around the Udderbelly pasture failed to fully take off. Having seen Green perform as both Ida Barr and country singer Tina C, his versatility as a performer and his consistent wit is truly impressive, as is his gift for improvisation. Ida, roll on Eyes Down 2009!