Friday, 16 June 2017

Review DenMarked

A Theatrical Autobiography
Written and Performed by Conrad Murray

In The Loop 

The music business lures in a lot of young talent which sometimes shys away from theatre. It's therefore refreshing to see that Writers Avenue at The Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton and Battersea Arts Centre have given space to a 60 minute one-man show from musician and actor Conrad Murray.

Conrad is a stocky figure in a red baseball cap who charts his life in a monologue combining guitar, song vocals, beatboxing, rapping (oh do we really have to put a link to explain rapping? 😉) and live looping.

The publicity image veers towards an American guy-from-the-hood feel and there is an inspirational American-like side to Denmarked. But it's also an intimate, simple but engrossing tale of a Mitcham lad.

While there is material which the publicity also flags up as 15+, Murray gives an appealing performance, directed by Ria Parry, diving in and bringing us on a journey with him.

He presents his story as  a series of short, vivid verbal and musical chapters starting with his hesitant steps- most of us can identify with this - as he enters the building where he's about to have a job interview.

DenMarked also introduces Murray's life against the background of the Shakespeare text introduced to him several years ago by a teacher. This gives a framework of quotes, some of which, it has to be said, work better than others.

The Shakespearean interludes can feel a bit clunky - but they also work in other ways. Of course rapping and the wordsmithery of Shakespeare work together.

But Murray discovers Hamlet's words take on a new meaning when superimposed on his own life and whip up his own enthusiasm. The title's new look at Hamlet's homeland, is an obvious example.

Murray is the child of what many would term bureaucratically a "dysfunctional" family - a violent father, a mother, beaten up by her husband, who seeks solace elsewhere, although she does hold down a responsible job and he also has a rock of a brother.

Murray maps his struggles, his dreams (in all senses of the word), his rebellion against "inevitability", a life of crime on the estate.

He also marks the coming to terms with more matters. Amongst other things, his Indian heritage through his father and even his Mum's Dad's refusal to go against his egalitarian principles and buy his council house instead of thinking of his family's individual interest. It's mentioned in passing rather than laid on thick and all the better for it.

By the end, the hard-won bright spots overcome the many darker phases of his life and the winning of a  holiday park singing contest and acclaim of his classmates does, with many and various detours include a few bus rides, lead to something good.

This is quite a low key unostentatious show, carefully thought out with touches of self deprecating humour and lighting by Mitch Hargreaves. DenMarked is not perfect and there were times we longed for more information but at other times we could also understand his caution.

You want to know how the job interview turned out? You'll have to catch the show but hurry because the short run finishes on Saturday. It's an upper range amber light and we look forward to Murray bringing further layers as he continues to builds up his undoubted skills in theatrical performance. 

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