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Review: Hit Me! The Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury/Everyman

Reasons to be Cheerful or What a Waste?

Published on November 11th 2010.


Review: Hit Me! The Life and Rhymes of Ian Dury/Everyman

ON THE face of it, Ian Dury was a cheeky cockney chappie, a songsmith with a penchant for saucy lyrics; a revolutionary with a message and a great platform upon which to deliver it.

Privately, as it says in the blurb for this show, he was a flawed maestro wrestling with demons.

There is only little mention of Dury's talent as a fine-artist, no more than a few passing comments on his two marriages and children, and close to nothing about his many other women, all of whom contributed in making the man who he was

Writer/director Jeff Merrifield, a life-long fan, developed and wrote Hit Me! The Life & Rhymes of Ian Dury in close collaboration with Dury's friends and family. Thus it goes some way to capture the man who put the phrase "sex and drugs and rock and roll" into the national psyche.

This week the show rolls into Liverpool, its last date on a tour which started at Edinburgh Festival’s prestigious Gilded Balloon back in August.

The warts-‘n’-all-portrait-come-celebration of the singer-songwriter who produced some of the wittiest lyrics of the punk rock era is an enjoyable nostalgia trip - and Mark White does a more than plausible imitation: the slender frame, the alternately cool occasionally confrontational manner, the raspy, laid-back voice, and the mocking, detached style of performance.

The three key areas the show focus, in turn, on the peak of Dury's success, the cusp of his comeback and the time just after his death. This gives us 11 of the Blockheads' most famous songs, performed live, and include Hit Me, Reasons to be Cheerful, Sweet Gene Vincent and Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll.

Interspersed are tales of his childhood with a genteel mother and aunts, the polio that crippled one arm and leg and the illness which saw him sent to an institution that he says was part school, part hospital, and all prison.


By Ian Moore

The stories, told as a series of monologues by both Dury and Josh Darcy as Fred “Spider” Rowe (he incompetent burglar who became Dury's tour manager and bodyguard), match the rebellious lyrics with tales of reckless behaviour, presenting a cold, crude picture of one of our most endearing anarchists.

Through the two protagonists, the production builds a living portrait of the man with all his contradictions - however the style of the production is a little disjointed.

As a two-hander, it seems like a good one-act play of about 70 minutes which has been extended with a clunky final monologue and unnecessary finale that borders on cliché.

There is only little mention of Dury's talent as a fine-artist, no more than a few passing comments on his two marriages and children, and close to nothing about his many other women, all of whom contributed in making the man who he was. In fact, the sober Dury, impish and courtly, is hardly visible here, nor is the habitual user of irony.

The staging creates a practical feel for the period, a simple revolve offers a 1980s kitchen, a 1990s living room full of old LPs, books and empty bottles, and a noughties house in Somerset.

A projection screen, which dominates the back wall, is underused, coming to life only to give time and place and to illustrate what many deem to be the unbelievably insensitive International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 (Dury wrote Spasticus Autisticus for this, but the BBC deemed it offensive to polite sensibilities and denied it airplay).

In trying to blend the humour and brutal reality, Merrifield dissects Dury's persona, revealing him to be a spoilt, nevertheless vulnerable individual hiding behind the rock star facade.

As a nostalgia trip it delivers in spades, and it is fortunate to have to two performers that really gel and their imitations serve the material wonderfully, however it is in the structure of the piece that Hit Me! fails to show the grit that made the real diamond geezer.

6 / 10

* Hit Me! The Life & Rhymes of Ian Dury is at the Everyman until Friday

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Peter Coyle

i wish i had been there…it sounds like something joyous and anarchic...the way the article is…

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Anonymous

Couldn't agree more. This is a super piece. Ken would be proud that not a penny of public money was…

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Reader Xxx

The review was indeed brilliant - congratulations Angie. The show must have been very special -…

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Claudia Boulton

Thanks Angie for your brilliant piece, so glad you wrote it! Now i know what was going on! Being in…

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