Brighton Fringe 2022
Is Dunstan Bruce fading away? In this power performance in poetry, music and solo theatre, the former Chumbawamba vocalist effectively explores middle age, mortality, seizing the moments where we stand out and shine, wondering if he is fading to invisibility
In poetry, music, occasionally visits on stage to his personal bar, combining film from his younger days, phone debates with his impatient and intolerant self, physical clownish theatre, costume, anecdote, audience banter, the occasionally self-enjoyed faux-paus and verbal comedy, a narrative is laid before us of a man in middle life crisis, wondering at the clouds of uncertainty rolling up on his personal and our collective planetary horizon. Are these the end days. Are we flounderers, capitulators, or dancers at the end of time (to paraphrase Michael Moorcock)?
Laughter, pain and biographical uncertainty are the bedfellows in this sharply hands-on, direct performance. It is playfully written, full of laughs that carry those tears we all need to finally break free of our wretched contentment as human beings. Falling down is, of course, the invitation to get up, nay, to rise up.
It is a well written piece, full of beatish inventiveness, the performer has given himself permission to break the rules, challenge the status quo and to run his fingers along the barbed wire perimeter fence of mortality and what Life seems to have given us in these ageing bodies of ours.
Am I fading away? Is is okay to grasp the moments of enjoyment in these, the end times in which we seem to live? You may not like the weight and intensity of the moralising concluding poem as the lights fade on our pulpit-host, but that may say more about you than him. Perhaps love truly is the answer; perhaps it is in those found and stolen brief moments of tenderness, touch and the invitation to love and tan ourselves in the garish limelight, that we can defeat that oncoming fading to invisibility.
Ultimately a life-affirming, sharply ironic autobiographical inquiry, Dunstan Bruce offers a solo show that dares us all to “go there”, to the places we are most scared of. I was no fan of Chumbawamba in their hey day, not because I didn’t like it, but because I was too moodily lost in the Enid and Hawkwind at the time. But that made no difference to my full enjoyment and appreciation of this solo show. I was captivated by the exploration, the pain and the cheeky joy, the conundrums exposed and explored, the inventiveness and the beat poet angst and anger. As a piece of performance, some of the poetry was lost in the music volume and the script had some unnecessary repetition around the mid-life crisis theme. A little tightening will sort that as the show develops.
Am I Invisible Yet ultimately asks questions of us all Here I am, your “Humble reviewer” at 55 – what am I waiting for? – I was asking myself that on the way out of the theatre. These may be the end times, but they are also our own times. I have also been knocked down a few times in my life. I’d certainly be glad to get up again to go and see this genuinely charming, powerful, collusion-smashing performer again. Hey! You!! Go see too.