Review: Mark Radcliffe

Saltburn Community Theatre: September 6, 2017

Mark Radcliffe shambles on stage around half seven on a fairly temperate late summer evening, though there is a slight chill in the air. He’s wearing a shirt, waistcoat, jeans, and what can only be described as light-up trainers (£18 from Ian Amazon, folks. Don’t all rush now…). It’s hard to work out in the stage lights whether he looks like a well-fed Liam Neeson, or (slightly more worryingly), Pete Waterman.

The evening is fairly simple in structure. Two halves (and a brief encore). Just Radcliffe and a guitar, interspersed with chat. While he is very, very, very funny there’s also an undertow of melancholy. Perhaps it’s because in late middle age there’s a whiff of nostalgia. Each song is introduced with a collection of memories: old memories, old places. He talks about growing up in Bolton; his grandfather; Manchester. There’s one show-stopping moment involving urban regeneration and an Alsatian Dog that is simply priceless.

Though he doesn’t pile on lots of showbiz anecdotes, the ones he tells about those he counts as true friends are warm, affectionate and riotously funny. His story about introducing his great hero, David Bowie, smashed, in the rain in Manchester is just as memorable.

And the songs are, as you might expect, rather good. A particular highlight for me was the reminiscence about his granddad, talking about Anglesey., which led into Llanbadrig, a rather lovely, wistful song with faint tinges of Jake Thackray.

Like Danny Baker (whose spoken word tour I also loved), Radcliffe isn’t a stand up, though you couldn’t be blamed if you thought he was. His timing is fantastic, and he has just the right mix of slightly hysterical grumpy old man and windswept mysterious troubadour. What you cannot miss is just what a talented man he his. At the start of the show, his opening gambit is a self-deprecating dig about his walk-on music: Young, Gifted & Black. He may not be black, and he’s certainly knocking on about now, but let no one argue about the gifted part. What a fabulous night.

Songs

  • The Old Stamping Ground
  • 14 Booth Avenue
  • My Regency Period
  • Fitzrovia
  • Llanbadrig
  • I Stay Away to Show That I Love You

Encore

  • Cheese and beer
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