Fringe Online 2021
With Jermyn Street’s Tom Littler has again led a groundbreaking team. The smallest producing theatre in the West End through lockdown has become the largest. The Footprints Festival boasts 43 shows acted live and streamed online over three months.
Directed by Chris Larner. Louie Whitmore’s set sports a stand, a real and a cut-out guitar, wig and chair. Lighting’s by Johanna Town, tracking the triple-strand with literally a light touch.
Production Manager Martin Bristow, Stage Managers Katy Gerard, Timesha Mathurin, Trainee SM Sophie Jefferson. Production Assistant Kayleigh Hunt. Camera work from several angles (Director Mark Swadel, Operator Balazs Weidner), including seventy-five degrees overhead, are deftly sequenced. Till June 5th.
‘Sit down Rob. It’s about your brother.’ It’s a long time before this repeated line makes sense, though it’s clear where it’s headed. First Cuchulain a comic red-bearded Saturn-munching hero strides on and tells us how rubbish the show will be. He pops up a few times.
And there’s Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzie too in a manic counterpoint, a man slowly spinning out of his own orbit ending on a literal killer line. Robert Mountford’s solo-show autobiography, double-stranded and indeed stranded in a lot of gigs from Trondheim to Tokyo, is more than Vagabonds: My Phil Lynott Odyssey. It’s intimately involved with Robert’s elder brother Dave.
Directed by co-writer Chris Larner. Louie Whitmore’s set sports a stand, a real and a cut-out guitar, wig and chair. Lighting’s by Johanna Town, tracking the triple-strand with literally a light touch.
A light fantastical touch is a Mountford gift too, a memorable Parolles in the magnificent production here of All’s Well in November 2019 (its other star Hannah Morrish also has a marvellous one-person show Hole, running here). Mountford’s personal arc is multi-layered, around identity, fraternal myth and loss.
Mountford’s a mercurial quick-change from the kind of sassy Ian Drury-hatted elder brother teaching young Rob all about bands; the Cuchulain eejit striding on, Lynott and plain Rob from Sutton Coldfield. The Rob who when he spots his bro’s impressive poster says it’s Cho-Gevera. That elicits a knowing laugh from the audience – some of whom might have sported the same poster at uni. It’s 1983-88, time of ‘Mrs Thatcher doing a poo on Britain’ says trespassing Rob in his brother’s magical room. Or closer still police kettling travellers in 1991 and the Third Handsworth Riots. Dave was there.
Mountford’s particularly fine in invoking his teen self awed by his hatted worldly elder brother (all in a face’s half-twist); who always ends ‘can you lend me some money?’ Dave’s own life turns progressively more fugitive till Robert asks Cuchulain for him at the Door of Heroes…. Which isn’t where you’d even expect it to be. Dave’s shuffling radicalism rubs off a little, but it’s more the lifestyle, the travellers’ ambulance turning up at the door.
There’s a poignant moment when Mountford’s Lynott wonders at his own memorial. As Parolles Mountford’s known for his quickfire braggadocio. Here he flickrs through a vulnerable adolescent, a chipper man with a baffled core, a roarer who finds too many lines, and of course that comic turn of red-beard.
Lynott’s lines drawn from biography but then twisted into new variations are memorably wrought by Mountford: ‘The thing they never tell you about heroin… is how enjoyable it is….’ and later: ‘The thing about being a statue is how cold it is.. and your memories come all in fragments.’
Over seventy minutes Mountford tracks each to their source. The double story he has to tell is illuminated by a boy awed by a brother awed by the greats, ascending to a hero, Cuchulain, who sends up such notions as farce. It’s a subtle point made in great brush-streaks, till we appreciate the delicacy wrought between. An original off-kilter approach to elegy, tribute and becoming yourself. Mountford is consummate.