by Asa J. MAddison
Having not experienced any live theatre for a while, I was unsure what to expect when I headed along to The Dog and Parrot on Monday 28th of October for Mixtape, But the juxtaposition of a pop-quiz and theatre performance had my curiosity desiring answers.
Part of Alphabetti Spaghetti’s Brolly Season, Mixtape is a monthly live performance conceived by theatre director Melanie Rashbrooke, combined with some of the most exciting emerging and recognized writers around. Mixtape offers bite-size chunks of performance theatre mixed with the competitive edge of a local pub’s pop quiz for the delight of an interactive audience.
The rules are simple: the play must be as long as, or shorter than, the song that inspired it, only lyrics from that song can be used to form the script, and the song must have been a number 1 hit. From this, the audience must attempt to guess the artist and track title in order to win the coveted Golden Mixtape.
Understandably, you would think this concept would be hindered by the nature of pop songs, which by design are restrictive by their repetition. Well not so. This is down to the creativity and innovation of the writers and cast, who jumbled and rearranged the lyrics to form two to three minute reinterpretations that were both poignant, humorous and intelligently crafted.
The first half (or Side A) flew past in a breeze of enjoyment stronger than the gale force winds which the met-office had promised would hit the North East coastline that evening. With renditions ranging from Madonna’s ‘Vogue’, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ and Chesney Hawks’ ‘The One and Only’, each reinterpretation was delivered with power, passion and hilarity which kept the audience both entertained and frantically scribbling down their quiz answers.
After a quick cigarette and a chat, I sat down with a can of Red Stripe to enjoy Side B. The second half started with a two-cast rendition of U2’s ‘With or Without You’, (which was later revealed, much to the amusement of the crowd, to have been mistaken for A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’ by cast member Stan’s mother, whom I happened to be sat beside). This routine was seamlessly followed by a wonderful delivery of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, before Jackie Wilson’s ‘Reet Petite’ was transformed brilliantly into a performance of two hopeless lads trying to find romance with a pretty girl in a club, by playing on the repetition of the ‘oh, oh, oh, oh’ in the lyrics to form their rejection.
The second half came to close with what I thought were the best two renditions of the evening. Firstly, we were privileged to witness a poignant and beautifully delivered ‘Starting Over’, which John Lennon himself would have been proud of. This was quickly followed by a surreal interpretation of Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’. This saw the male and female leads acting out a script which at times reminded me of Freud’s Oedipus complex, which was both hilarious and bizarre. Using lyrics such as: ‘wax a chump like a candle’ and ‘grabs a hold of me tightly’ to simulate a sexual act and his desire for his mother had the audience in fits of laughter.
But the evening didn’t end there. There was still the important matter of the result of the quiz and the winner of the coveted Golden Mixtape. I was personally delighted to witness my friend and companion for the evening, Jenni Pascoe, become the first ever custodian of the award.
Speaking to the cast and writers after the show, they all rightly thought that the night had been a great success, although at times they believed it had felt really quick. This is testament to the how the night was delivered, as the audience was caught up in an exhilarating whirlwind of quick-fire sets, which were beautifully paced throughout. Director and creator of the event, Melanie Rashbooke, said afterwards: ‘It was great to see theatre and a quiz actually worked well on stage, and wasn’t just a stupid idea of mine.’
All doubts aside, Mixtape works really well. I had a brilliantly entertaining night and my companion left with the coveted Golden Mixtape, so all in all, a huge thumbs-up from us two.
So if you like innovative theatre and you love pop music, or just fancy a music quiz with a difference, Mixtape will be returning The Dog and Parrot on Mon 25 Nov, 8pm for Mixtape 80’s, as well as, a Christmas special on Mon 16 Dec, 8pm.