In this year of the Diamond Jubilee there has been much talk about defining what makes Great Britain “great”, and the English “English”, a task whose aim is as elusive as the Holy Grail, I fear. But in Malvern, nestling in streets which cling to the lower slopes of the hills, I think there may be as good a representation of the idea as anything , last night it was to be found at Malvern Cube, formerly Malvern Youth Centre, at “Fancy a Double”, part of the Worcester Literary Festival. Now it could have been formerly Malvern Youth Centre in a physical sense, rather than in nomenclature, if it had not been for the sterling efforts of the locals, many of whom were present for the show, to keep it open, and it is such events as this which justify its existence. A pile of rubble and a new housing estate ( as was threatened) would have been a poor replacement.If aliens from outer space had called in to see what this cultural form was, they would probably have been baffled , keyed in Alpha Centauri into the satnav, and hit warp factor 9 pronto – and we would not want it any other way.
Master of ceremonies was a man variously dressed as a Crusader Knight and Dave Lee Travis circa 1972, Jai Hill. Jai was the consummate host, linking acts, telling jokes and the odd poem, and pouring pints of beer down a funnel into the throat of an audience member whilst reciting “Charge of the Light Brigade”, Tennyson would have approved.
First up was Tim Cranmore and Robyn. Tim was on carrot. Robyn was on cello. To others this may have seemed odd, in Malvern the concern was merely of how you tune a carrot. That mystery was never solved, but we were treated to an unique ( never has the word been more appropriate) coming together of carrot and cello in ways that hitherto have certainly not been explored by anyone else. Tim’s discovery, and translation of, an unknown Dead Sea Scroll concealed in a watering can ,was as much a revelation in performance as it will be to religious authorities. The National Anthem was played with a vigour and panache which left me astonished that Tim and Robyn’s services had not been called upon earlier on in the day ,at Horse Guards Parade, for the Trooping of the Colour in front of Her Majesty in person. Tim was as phlegmatic as ever, Robyn tried to keep a straight face – it was great fun.
Closing the first half were the Very Grimm Brothers, AKA Adrian Mealing and John Denton, who occasionally leave their baronial castle to entertain the hoi polloi. It is a wonderful act. Adrian is on voice and personality, John is on guitar and long suffering non-personality. Adrian has all the fun, but John’s deadpan foil is vital to a performance which takes in a tribute to Gill Scott Heron, student fees, and nude wrestling in front of an open fire to while away the long winter nights. Finely nuanced, very well written, and skilfully accompanied by John, it was a rousing finale to the first half.
I am not in the habit of reviewing performances in which I have been involved, but face a difficulty here, as the third act was The Imperfect Pair, of whom I am one half, and Amy Rainbow is the other. Suffice to say that I was the “Im” bit, and Amy was the “Perfect” bit.
Lindsey Warnes- Carroll and Catherine Crosswell wrapped up the night with an act that combined part spoken word duet, part acapella singing, part acoustically accompanied performance, and a finale with a backing track. The material focussed on genitalia and bodily functions, but was of course done in the best possible taste, with a nod and a wink and a smile, oh, and gales of laughter! I had not previously considered the lyrical potential of cervical smears and lollipop sticks, fortunately, Catherine and Lindsey have, as they careered through a set list whose order was determined by the audience and a crocodile’s mouth. The audience loved it,and so did I, demanding a well deserved encore which turned out to be a surreally literal re-interpretation of Waterloo.
Fancy a Double delivered a double strength dose of entertainment for the first Saturday of the Worcester Literary Festival, with much more to come until it closes on 24th June, details: http://www.worcslitfest.com/
All photos by, and with kind permission from, Geoff Robinson.
Gary Longden 17/6/12