Where: Lounge Room, Leicester Square Theatre, WC2H
It is not everyday that you hear someone claim to have attended their own wake, or that their friend had knocked together a mix tape for the event. What is more likely is that if these things had happened to you that you’d want to tell someone, or everyone, about it. So on Tuesday night we went to see Steve Pretty’s account of How I attended my own wake and have the mix tape to prove it. Not really knowing what to expect, we went along mostly because we thought it sounded a bit random (and I still hanker for the good old mix tape days). Due to the scourge of delayed trains, we walked into the tiny room to find the only remaining free seats were on the (empty) front row, only a few inches away from Steve’s performance area. It would be Colin’s undoing.
The show’s premise is that in 2004 the Daily Mail reported Steve dead. Despite the paper’s reputation for grave inaccuracies, his best friend subsequently organised a wake for him and put together a mix tape of meaningful songs to be played to gathered friends and family. Steve turned up to the wake, but then lost the mix tape – he recently found it in an old Ethiopian lunch box (!) and decided to write a show about the songs. To avoid any licensing obligations, Steve played excerpts of the songs with a trumpet, melodica (or keytar) and loop machine. We even witnessed, probably, the world’s only percussion performer of 3.5″ floppy disk against antique motherboard. He simultaneously played a tape with a voiceover commentary, explaining why the songs were important, with plenty of amusing anecdotes.
The show involved lots of audience participation, including singing along, playing the tambourine, and blowing whistles. Being on the front row we were inevitably picked on. Well Colin was. In order to demonstrate the ability of music to lighten up any situation, Colin was asked to stand at one end of the room, while another member of the audience shouted insults at him though a megaphone until he was extremely sad (although it did take a while to break him). Steve then played a circus tune through a teapot (yes a teapot) into his ear to cheer him up. Just like magic it worked!
As well as being great fun, the show also had extremely poignant moments, especially when Steve described the circumstances surrounding his death being reported – the 2004 Boxing day Tsunami. It also was very effective in making me think about the influence of music on mood, and how songs can transport us to particular places and memories.
The night ended with everyone joining in with a kazoo song and letting off party poppers. Despite it being a cold, dark January evening, I don’t think there was a single person who didn’t leave with a smile on their face. My only criticism was our proximity the to the front, as the trumpet was a little loud for my delicate ears. But in a small venue, and with delayed trains, what can you do.
Verdict: Steve Pretty is a talented comic and musician, and if you’re looking for an unusual comedy show this is perfect. Hopefully if you go and see one of his shows, like us, you’ll leave with your spirits raised, having had a great night.