Colin Hambrook looks forward to the premiere of Raspberry, inspired by the life of singer Ian Dury, by award-winning playwright Garry Robson.
Garry Robson has created some of the best-known pieces of disability theatre over the past 15 years or so with his company Fittings Multimedia Arts. His latest offering Raspberry - due to tour the UK from the beginning of April 2010 - is a musical inspired by the life and times of legendary disabled musician and performer Ian Dury.
Raspberry is a juicily gothic piece of music theatre which muses on the idea of perfection and perfectability. Set in a small town where tin was shaped and forged, a blacksmith had a daughter just like him. And just like her Dad, Rita was a bit different. Now as far as the blacksmith was concerned this was a cosmic joke too far... so he set about changing things. Because tin was his game, within which he'd achieved a modicum of fame, he tried to bend and shape her like a Uri Geller spoon.
And that's how it would have gone on, if Spasticus and Ray and their band of dirty angels hadn't come along and changed just about everything...
I thought Garry Robson would have been an ideal actor for playing Ian Dury in the biopic 'Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll' which hit our screens earlier this year. In 'Raspberry Ian Dury - played by Garry - becomes a narrator for another story about misfits and ne-er-do-wells.
I asked Garry about his inspiration for writing this show, loosely based on Ian Dury's life and times: "When I was a kid my mum drove me through the snow to the palatial setting of the Kettering Odeon to see one of the last performances Gene Vincent ever gave in the UK."
"She’d looked around and figured that Douglas Bader and Chester from Gunsmoke were not really sexy role models for a young crippled boy and there was Gene with his gammy leg, calliper and attitude."
"About the same time a slightly older crip down in Essex, another Vincent acolyte, was heading off to art college and playing in skiffle groups. That was Mr Dury and I saw him on stage a few years later at the Birmingham Odeon. What is this with Odeons! It was one of the greatest live shows I’ve ever seen."
"As I’ve lived my life straddling the straight world and the world of rippledom Dury has always been there as a sharp-toothed and sharp-eyed commentator, always ready with a smile, a sneer and a sentimental shrug."
"I’ve always wanted to write a play with music about parents with children who are not quite ticketyboo - featuring a commentary by someone quite like Ian Dury. Well this is it. I hope you like it."
Raspberry was first performed as work in progress as part of Oran Mor’s hugely successful A Play, A Pie and a Pint series in Glasgow by Sounds of Progress in collaboration with Fittings.
The show is directed by Gordon Dougall, music and additional lyrics are by Leigh Stirling, with arrangements by Sally Clay. Members of the cast include Garry Robson (Spasticus), Christine Bruno (Rita), Sally Clay (Ray), Jem Dobbs (Dad/Angel), David ‘Stickman’ Higgins (Albert Einstein) and Jamie Duffin (Angel).
Set and costume design is by Keith McIntyre and lighting design by Mark Hughes. The production is suitable for audiences aged 14+ and contains some strong language.
Associate Visual Artist Tanya Raabe is collaborating with the company to document rehearsals and creating an animation which will be touring the UK in the future.
Garry Robson has worked with Sounds of Progress on several occasions now. His band 'Blind Gurl and the Crips' are one of several inclusive disability bands supported by this leading producer of some of Scotland's most cutting edge inclusive music theatre.
Sounds of Progress are committed to training and mentoring talented musicians. They have showcased the work of The Superheroes and 21st Century Band amongst in their bid to get the work of disabled artists recognised, both nationally and internationally.