‘We’re a blues cover band. Why are we playing a wake in Dorset?‘
The visit from DugOut Theatre has set the bar high, early on in the new Truck season. Inheritance Blues devised by the Leeds based theatre company, is a familiar tale of feuding brothers brought together at the occasion of their father’s funeral. An energetic show with live music, hugely engaging characters, masterful narrative control, mixed with elements of farcical comedy that proved a winner with Hull audiences over four nights in February.
We meet the three brothers Fenwick, directly after the funeral service having a few drinks in a Dorset pub. Actually that’s not quite right. We are introduced to the brothers by the blues cover band called The Hot Air Ballues, who, for all intents and purposes, serve as narrators. It is they who control the reins of the story and now, this is where it gets complicated.
Like an illustrator creating the image whilst you read, drawing and redrawing the page, the audience is afforded a window into the iteration of the piece. This device is played with so that details can change just like that: at the beat of a drum or in this case a cajon.
Also much like oral storytelling which welcomes a little embellishment, this idea of poetic licence, takes another step when you add the fallibility of memory. The way the mind can edit out aspects of a story, that reveal the subject in less favourable light. It is one, two, three back to the action, suspension of reality, energetic dynamic narrative control. The story continues apace finding its own rhythm getting very physical, switching from present to past and back again, yet at any second could be purposefully pulled up, for a little edit or polishing.
There are three dynamics happening; the brothers’ founded on mistrust and past conflict, the – oft observed – classic band dynamic comprising the optimist, the realist and the mystic, and then the third being, what happens when these two come together. There is an obvious class divide between the two groups, but beer and an ode to the ale, loosens the stiff shirts and as the weather closes in, there is little choice but to find common ground.
So the stories play out over the one night, as copious quantities of alcohol are consumed. Histories are written and rewritten, songs are sung the audience roar with laughter, now comfortable with the subtle messing with the fourth wall. At certain points we find the cast members doubling up playing different parts but not in the normal sense, it’s almost like seeing the story in your mind, that is what is on the stage. The live music was obviously a highlight, the guitarist skilled, the piano smooth and cool. When the saxophone is unleashed the stage comes alive it’s just like being at a gig.
The performances from the cast are pitch perfect throughout, the deft control of the narratives excellent, comic timing and delivery faultless. The vocals: the harmonies had wonderful moments of rich resonance that you get with strong male voices. Real hairs on the back of the neck stuff.
The poster image had put me in mind of The Commitments, the love letter to soul music, directed by Alan Parker. Fringe favourite Inheritance Blues, does not quite have that kind of status, but with over ninety shows to date, resulting in deserved accolades and awards everywhere it plays, it sure is one helluva good night out.
DugOut Theatre: a young professional company with an original approach to narrative, buckets of acting talent and an exciting prospect for theatre in the North.