Hit Me - The Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury
Written & Directed by Jeff Merrifield
Presented by Irving Rappaport and Playback Theatre
The Courtyard Theatre
There are those who are familiar with the world of punk and 80's rock and those that are not. For those who are, Hit Me - The Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury provides the opportunity to wander down - or probably it is more accurate to say - go on a rampage down memory lane. For those who are not, myself included, one would hope to get an introduction to this world that you wouldn't forget, leaving you hungry for more. However whilst you may leave with a flavour of what this provocative era was like, it's hardly revolutionary.
After a successful run in Edinburgh for which Jud Charlton received a best actor nomination for his role as Ian Dury, Hit Me has come to London's East End where it most definitely has a fan base ready and waiting. Chronicling his life from the start of his success in the 80's to 2000 when he died of cancer, Hit Me aims to not only re-visit his music but also to look at the complex man behind the angry facade that was Ian Dury.
It is understandable why Charlton received his nomination. His physical characterisation of Dury (who contracted polio as a young boy from a local swimming pool) is impeccable and he has a real twinkle in his eye as this man who craves attention and is desperate to create a reaction. However at times his performance slips into that of a caricature as does Josh Darcy as roadie Fred 'Spider' Rowe. Absolutely these characters are larger than life but some scenes become very reminiscent of an episode of the Young Ones, which of course was a deliberate parody.
Punk was a revolution; it was a reaction to the music of disco, not to mention the political and economical environment from which it emerged, and yet Hit Me feels safe: it doesn't break any rules, unless you count the completely indulgent overuse of the F word and C word.
Having said this, fans of this era will love seeing one of their favourite punk stars reborn on stage. Over the three chapters Dury revels stories from his childhood, the inspiration behind certain songs and gossip from the tour bus, including that of his turbulent relationship with the band The Blockheads, and of course it's a chance to see classic tracks such as "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" and the scandalous "Spasticus Autisticus" performed.
So whilst Hit Me didn't leave me wanting to dye my hair pink and attach my nose ring to my ear via some sort of chain, for those with punk already in their blood I'm sure they'll be more than happy to be hit by Dury's rhythm stick.
Philip Fisher reviewed the rewritten production at the Leicester Square Theatre
Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan