The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman: AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie). A Theatrical Talking Blues & Glissendorf [FringeTIX]
Tamarama Rock Surfers @ The Bakehouse Theatre (Main Theatre)
9:30pm, Sat 20 Feb 2010
From the outset – I’m not a massive fan of Dylan. Yes, I appreciate his impact on music as a whole, and I can understand why he has his avid fans… but, in general, the snippets of his catalogue that I’ve listened to just haven’t rung my bell.
Which is just an elaborate way of saying that I didn’t pick this show because I was a Dylan aficionado. Rather, I was here because of the Tamarama Rock Surfers.
Last year’s Death in Bowengabbie was a stunner: a return to the simple, heart-felt theatre that made me fall in love with the Fringe in the first place. And, given the divine production values evident in that show, I figured another Tamaramarific experience was justified.
Sometimes, scatterbrained associations really pay off – because Chronic Ills was fantastic.
From the outset, we are informed that this is most definitely not a tribute show; then Matt Ralph appears as Dylan and, over the next hour, talks us through his life, showing us his pivotal moments and struggles and contemplations. It’s not always a pretty picture – we’re with him in hospital, we’re with him during his seedier drug days. But we also see his interactions with Guthrie (and the search for his Holy Grail of Songs), Lennon, and…
…look. I can’t explain it, really. And, even if I could, it would take away from the impact of the work. There’s enough up there to remind me of what the performance was like (and, after all, that’s the whole reason I started this blog), and hopefully there’s enough there to entice you to go and see this show. Because this production is almost without flaw. The writing is tight and always in motion; the three principle actors are perfect. Matt Ralph is fantastic as Dylan, and Andrew Henry & Lenore Munro flit between a plethora of characters, from Abe Lincoln to Marilyn Monroe.
Even the programme is deeply informative and bloody funny. All the songs, snippets of songs, and musical textures are wonderfully done – the electric set was superb – and Henry’s stints as Johnny Cash and Daniel Lanois are spot-on (as is Munro’s Jesus and Yoko Ono). In short, this was a bloody brilliant show, every bit as entertaining as Bowengabbie… and that’s a massive compliment.