Brighton Fringe 2021
Grab your beret for a date to remember with the crazy beat poets and a Day of the Dead inspired marching band. You won’t get more bangs for your bongos elsewhere on the Fringe than this quintessentially Brighton event.
Flap your ears and break out like the measles daddyo. We’re gonna get real flippy in this bageltent but you need to grab a flop so we don’t end up in germsville.
Stay with me.
Knowledge of the Beat visionaries of 1950’s America is not essential for this high-octane double bill of performance and music. Our hosts Risky Maracas (Rikki Tarascas) Honor Mission (Honour Mission) and their group of hep cats ensure we get fully immersed in the world epitomised by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Carolyn Cassady. As Catcha Cat Comedy they have history here, producing a whole night of Beat inspired lunacy at the Arista Cafe for Brighton Fringe in 2015. And while this show doesn’t feature a semi-nude ‘happening’ it manages, within a short set, to perfectly conjure the spirit and otherness of the Beats.
Just back from Paris, Risky is a bumbling, convivial narrator, keen to reflect on his past and with bundles of words to share. Honor, possibly his sixth wife, is ultra-beat and too cool for school, slicing through the conversation ordering “cut!” Their pitch perfect poems differ stylistically. Honor is a surrealist fixated on all things physical – her “turnip shaped boyfriend” with his “tulip shaped reefer” “walks on fields of spongecake.” She’s a deadpan counter to Risky’s more metaphysical, emotionally driven probings about journeys, sheds and angst in the supermarket. The language from both is richly eloquent despite being preposterous and at times laugh out loud funny.
Whilst they seem to come from different worlds, Risky and Honor’s relationship is solidly built. There’s a mutual need and tolerance of each other that elevates the show above a parade of sketches. These are great characters with back-stories that you want to know more about.
An on-stage musical quartet (Jules Lawrence saxophone & musical saw, Rod Adams bass and percussion, Ricardo Montydavies III and Richard Walker saxophones, with Risky upfront on congas) underscores the action with beautiful jazz inspired riffs and tunes to match the vibe. Mary The Beatnik (Mary Blackman Smith) keeps her dance moves low, slow and graceful, slinking to the floor to read Howl. Risky with his warm eccentricity is keen to bring the audience into the action “it’s you – Vicky Plimsoll!” Finger-clicking and hollering is encouraged. There’s something intrinsically funny about a large human with a tiny instrument, and Honor’s tooting on a toy saxophone is straight from the fridge hilarious.
The shift from Beat world to big band ska is surprisingly seamless, helped by the fact that Rikki Tarascas again slaps the skins, this time adding a bass drum to the congas. Usually a parade band, the eight-piece SKAletons look as fantastic as they sound with costumes and faces painted like skeletons, sharp black hats and a fun attitude. Their repertoire is an exhilarating mix of their own compositions, classics like The Guns of Navarone, the James Bond theme and a sing-a-long “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.” Despite Covid-19 restrictions the atmosphere in the Spiegeltent is electric; bodies in seats are dancing.
As an event for book festivals, parties or an opener for a gig, Dead Beat Poets really is (ahem) hard to beat. When paired with horn honking, rhythm heavy, irrepressible musical skeletons, it’s a party that even William Burroughs would appreciate.