Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Adelaide Fringe 2010 Review #4

Fringe review: The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmerman
PETER C. PUGSLEY 22 Feb, 2010
The Independent Weekly, South Australia.
(A Fairfax Regional Paper)

Hey, hey, Bobby Dylan but I wrote you a play. The Chronic Ills of Robert Zimmermanis a well-crafted journey into the life and times of one of the most enigmatic recording artists of our lifetime.

Constrained by Dylan’s notoriously tight copyright control of his music, this strongly performed play still manages to catch the essence of the man and his music. It is presented by the Sydney-based Tamarama Rock Surfers. Matt Ralph plays Dylan as the unreliable narrator, the song-and-dance man, the master illusionist. Thankfully, he avoids mere imitation of Dylan’s singing style and is ably backed by Simon Rippingale on upright bass, ukulele and harmonica (though not all at the same time).

Lenore Munro plays nicely with a litany of characters, including Joan Baez and Dylan’s ex-wife, Sara Lowndes – and her Yoko Ono is not to be missed. And while Ralph’s Dylan is the anchoring performance, Andrew Henry’s remarkable supporting role(s) as Woody Guthrie, John Lennon, Allen Ginsberg and Johnny Cash threatens to steal the show. Despite the occasional rushed delivery by Ralph, playwright Benito Di Fonzo has penned a great ode to a wordsmith of puzzling proportions. With a bowerbird-like randomness, Di Fonzo grabs and snatches at Dylan’s lyrics, off-hand comments and literary ripostes, threading them into a (mostly) coherent narrative.

Diehard Dylanites can sit smugly congratulating themselves as they identify key phrases and separate the real from the fictional. Those less familiar with the work of His Bobness will enjoy the rapid-fire exchanges and snippets of what could well pass as Dylan songs (the take on "Girl from the North Country" is a hoot!). If you’re confused by the title, just track down Dylan’s recent biographical tomes.

– On for a limited season, February 22-27, at the Bakehouse Theatre.


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