REVIEW – Banjo Man


By Isabella Fraser

Writer and performer Quina Chapman has created a multi-media storytelling piece with this, a tribute to her late father, musician Roger Dinsdale. Known for playing the banjo section of one-hit-wonder Swamp Thing, he passed away suddenly in 2009, leaving her with memories and a need to know more about him.

The Blind Poet has a small stage, but a cosy atmosphere and is big enough for the small audience that attended the performance on the day of review. The simple use of a mike, a projector screen and hanging line for photos meant that we could focus on the story being outlined without being distracted.

Chapman has a warm and emotive singing voice, sounding like a cross between folk and modern country. Supported by her partner Liam Morgan on guitar and arrangement of music, she sings songs in-between storytelling, poetry sections and on-screen snippets. The show continues with the interspersing of photos connected to the different sections of Chapman’s life with her father.

The most successful parts of the show are Chapman’s songs, which are easy to listen to and beautifully written, particularly the one created from comments made on the YouTube page dedicated to her father. The storytelling, while interesting, seems meandering at times, which may be part of the style of presentation but could engage with us more. The poetry is simple but clear; it is almost song-like in its composition due to the rhyming style. The projected shots of times from Chapman’s childhood are like being introduced to a family member at a gathering of relatives and being given a potted history of the shared background. It is personalized but it felt that this could still be a work in progress; the reasons for Dinsdale leaving the family and what that impact meant to Chapman are not fully explored in the storytelling. There was definitely the impression that there was much Chapman was not saying, but merely hinted at additional depths.

This is a touching and thoughtful précis on a father and daughter relationship. There are all-too-brief moments where there is great insight and the depth of feeling is revealed, particularly in the songs: it would have strengthened the production to have that deeper connection throughout. Nevertheless, this is still an entertaining piece: if you have an hour free then you could certainly do far worse than spend an hour listening to Chapman’s tales of family and what loss meant to her.

Banjo Man runs until 24 August at the Blind Poet at 12.15, as part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival. Running time is 1 hour.

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