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Fittings Multimedia Arts, Limelight Studios and Tron Theatre Present

 

Raspberry

by Gary Robson
                                  

Music by Leigh Stirling

 

Directed by Gordon Dougall

 

Oval House Theatre

 

1– 19 Feb 2011

 

 

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A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

Speaking of his controversial song ‘Spasticus Autisticus’, written to coincide with the 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons, Ian Dury remarked that like the slaves in the film Spartacus (on which the song is a pun), disabled people ‘too are determined to be free.’ Freedom from what exactly, is the big question that Oval House Theatre’s Raspberry attempts to answer, evocatively channelling the confrontational spirit and oddball genius of Dury himself – with dazzling results.

An iron hospital trolley waits ominously on the stage, flanked by an anvil and various metal instruments; this is the home of disabled Rita ‘Raspberry’ and her blacksmith father. Determined to ‘beat’ her into shape, and convinced she will thank him one day, Raspberry’s father has adorned her legs with metal callipers and spends his days hammering and chiselling away at her contraptions. Trapped in the world of her father’s determination to ‘fix’ her, Raspberry is visited by the ghost of Ian Dury who armed with his particular brand of East End street humour and defiant music, attempts to subvert her attitude towards her disability.

The multi-talented cast led by writer Garry Robson, who also stars as Dury, deliver a fantastic live musical performance. Leigh Starling’s music and additional lyrics, capture the Blockhead’s distinctive blend of jazz and rock, and deliver Dury’s sardonic lyrical wit with a natural confidence. Sally Clay as a white female Ray Charles adds a touch of the feminine with her atmospheric vocals, while also playing the keyboard. The oddity of Einstein on the drums is brought to life with a good helping of eccentric charm by David Stickman Higgins, while Robson’s Dury is simply electric in both character and musical performance and easily the star of the show. Christine Bruno’s Rita contributes little to the musical force of the show, yet brings an endearing naivety into the quirky mix.

With satirical songs such as ‘I like Being a Cripple’, in which the audience were at one point invited to sing along and ‘find their inner cripple’, the issue of disability is at the very heart of the production. As Rita’s notions and preconceptions surrounding disability and freedom begin to change, the outspoken non-conformity of Robson’s Dury works his magic on the audience too. Raspberry delivers a powerful and thought provoking message, and the colourfully acidic force that is Ian Dury is the perfect vehicle.

The productions only weakness may lie in a rather minimal plot line that feels a little too stretched out at times. With little narrative force behind the message, the power of the production lies in the music and talent of the performers, and they more than compensate. A unique and glittering performance that captivates from start to finish and will leave you humming all the way home.

 

Box office: 020 7582 7680

www.ovalhouse.com

 

Oval House Theatre
52-54 Kennington Oval, London, SE11 5SW

Tue – Sat 7:45pm

£14/£7 Concessions

 

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