Fringe Online 2020
Based on the acclaimed novel by David F Ross, we gatecrash an online interview that tells the tale of a mid 1980’s Ayrshire band that was destined for fame and stardom who then imploded. One evening in iconic Cavern Club, in a desperate attempt to solve financial problems, the manager of the band hatches a plan to kidnap Boy George and hold him for ransom. Boy George is there to provide a young fan with the opportunity of getting their photo taken with him at the world famous venue. The band, The Miraculous Vespas, are there to gig. In what we discover is the midst of a run of daft decisions and simmering tensions it, unsurprisingly goes wrong and we end up with recently completed demo tapes of the first album taken and lost, seemingly forever. We are now in today with the manager attempting to launch a film, being asked into an interview that is supposed to be being recorded by an interviewer, Norma Niven who is much more than just a Kirsty Wark wannabe. The lead singer, now looking after his wife, the manager, now looking after his mother and the woman who reveals she was at the incident in the Cavern Club melt into a squabble that tuns ugly before reconciliation between manager and lead singer end the dreams and the possibilities of a come back.
The novel is a more than decent base source for what transpires, and with the author himself translating from the written word to the almost live stage it is done with a keen eye on how to present in its new medium. The unfolding narrative is set up well, though the restrictions of being online leave us with some exposition that would have had heightened dramatic effect on a stage, rather than told verbatim.
Given the combined abilities of Tam Dean Burn as manager Max Mojo, Colin McCreadie as lead singer Grant Delgado and the interviewer, Sarah McCardie as Norma Niven, this never falls short of delivering. In particular, it is the poignant two talking heads between Delgado and Niven at the heart of the story that works best. The previous bullishness of Burn as Mojo, however, sets this up and to credit the pay off without the set up would be criminal. It is a story that depends upon twists and turns and all three actors deliver them with equal measures of aplomb.
This does work as three people having the equivalent of a zoom conversation, but it is also highly enhanced by the graphic content and the nod, not just to 21st Century lockdown technological challenges but also to the highly recognizable pop art.
The direction is poised and well nuanced and whilst the cast may have been responsible for the hair, make up, costume and set, the benefits of having control without those whose jobs are to make it all happen has not lessened the effectiveness of it all. The final shirt worn by Burn in particular, probably deserves a programme of its own, not least, where did he wear it before…
Overall, in the realm of making something out of the current situation it is good to see that not only those young and new companies are making theatre happen but also a grande old dame of touring has got thegither with a grande old venue and produced something borrowed, something new and something blue and given us an effective marriage made out of the character’s hell.