FRINGE REVIEW – Hit Me! The Life & Times of Ian Dury (Gilded Balloon)

*****

16 – 30 Aug (not 17 or 24)
1500-1630, Gilded Balloon

Hit Me! explores the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle of Ian Dury, in a 90-minute two hander at the Gilded Balloon’s Debating Hall.

The piece is split into three scenes: the first, in 1980, sees Dury riding the post-punk wave of success with his band the Blockheads. Mark White puts in a spot-on performance as the singer and lyricist, who is portrayed as a fragile and flawed individual hiding behind a larger-than-life public image – and the escape of alcoholic excess.

White plays to the audience in some asides and monologues, during which we learn about Dury’s challenging polio-afflicted childhood and bohemian upbringing. The play works best however when he is joined onstage by Josh Darcy, playing his friend and manager ‘Spider’ Rowe. Here, and with strong language from the outset, we get more of an insight into Dury’s motivations and his affect on others around him than we do in the sometimes drier monologue-driven material.

White also performs some of Dury’s best-known hits, nailing the singer’s vocals and mannerisms impressively. As the action shifts to 1990, when Dury has become a ‘national treasure’, he retains the character’s insecurities and foibles, having estranged those closest around him.

The last act, dealing mostly with Rowe’s reaction to the news of Dury’s death in 2000, is mostly well-handled, although the ending may be a little trite for some tastes. In general however, the piece is an accurately-played depiction of one of music’s most interesting characters, and – without any great message or theme – doesn’t shy away from covering all aspects of the ‘clever bastard’ himself.

Ticket information is available from the Gilded Balloon website.

Review by Keith D

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