“Hope” Benefit for Japan, The Public, West Bromwich

I look a bit rigid in this photo - don't I?

The Public has had a fairly rough ride since opening with criticism both of structure, and purpose. Fortunately, as time progresses , that identity is being found. The theatre and performance space is particularly impressive, and was a good venue for this event. Organised and promoted by Sue Hulse and Tracey Smith, a strong spread of performer and act was assembled for the evening, the purpose of which was to raise money and awareness for the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan.

I was pleased to be invited to perform, and in a five minute slot delivered, “Why Do Women Like Such Crap Music”, which is always a safe one to do, “Unfriended” which I am not sure that everyone “got”, “Pub Condom Machine” which is now pretty much a staple of my performance set ,and then the old favourite “Cheryl Cole”. I take the view that for a mixed audience, the material needs to engage pretty much immediately, and the themes need to be familiar. They have come to be entertained and that is my objective. The closing ensemble rendition, including all performers, of “My Way” was quite fun, although I have learned from past experience to duck out of the “big finish”!

Inventive and Entertaining

Headliner, and star turn, was undoubtedly Al Barz. Al is an unique talent who, armed with a good programmable Yamaha keyboard and some clever spoken lyrics delighted the audience with a remarkable set.”If I Could Be a Racing Driver” had shades of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”. “The Whisper of Your Name” lifted the bass line from “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” ,and “Dadumdadumda dum” ( not to be confused with “De Doo Doo Doo, De Dah, dah dah” by the Police”) borrowed the melody from “Nellie the Elephant”, with Al’s distinctive brand of Block Rocking Beats stamping his own identity on the number. Whilst neither Keith Emerson nor Fyfe Dangerfield will feel their keyboard pre-eminence is under immediate threat, Al was inventive and entertaining in equal measure. His tongue was firmly in his cheek throughout, and looking like a cross between Father Abraham and Thomas Dolby’s Dad, he had the audience on his side from start to finish. Despite the fun, which we lapped up, his straight poem “Spring Friday” reminded us all of why we were there with a simple, powerful piece. A great turn.

Blondie Looks

Music was well served by Emma and Kieran (the latter of whom looks like classic boy band material), and Phil Challoner who despatched three standards with effortless aplomb, as did Craig Hegan and Phil Churchill on guitar. “Johnny Don’t Smoke” were a trio who benefitted from a lead singer with “Blondie” looks, the more folky East West Infusion , Phil Cross and Caroline Waldren offered traditional folk fare of a very high standard, with Caroline’s vocals a delight. Earlier Anna and Steve had established a folk presence exploring territory opened by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Bros and Alison Kraus.” Inspiration”, a community based dance trio inspired.


Poetry was well served by Black Country stalwart Alfie Small whose local themed material warmed a home crowd. Janet Smith read the beautiful “Pacific” a three part poem demonstrating, as usual, that fine serious writing can find a place with the best of rival art forms. The “Don’t Go Into The Cellar” Theatre Company excelled with a hugely enjoyable romp through “The Tale of Spring Heeled Jack” in full costume. Louise Stokes gave another wonderful outing to Uncle Dirk, this time accompanied by Farouk (Nadeem Chugtai) who was droll, and looked as though he shares headwear stylists with Princess Beatrice! Louise’s fine writing, and eye for detail on costuming and characterisation continues to impress.

All in all a considerable artistic success which Tracey and Sue, and the supportive staff at the Public, should be very proud of.

The Big Ensemble Finish

Gary Longden 7/5/11

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