ABFCAP: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF IAN DURY **** THE ZOO (VENUE 124)
AT ONE point during this evocative two-hander about punk legend Ian Dury, the granite-voiced singer is described as "an extraordinary ordinary person". That's as good an epitaph as any, and a fitting description of this show.
Not to say that it's in any way pedestrian, but there's no attempt to incorporate any sense of magic realism or play with theatrical convention. It's just two blokes talking (and one occasionally singing), and the audience hang on every word they say.
The men in question are Dury himself, of course, and his long-time minder and fixer Fred "Spider" Rowe, an ex-lag and squaddie who's more than a bit tasty in a fight. Jud Charlton is excellent as Dury, boasting the appropriate middle-aged quiff and the unwieldy hop and scrape around the stage that the disabled singer's callipered leg – a result of a childhood bout of polio – gave him.
Dury, so the play has it, was the world's "first raspberry sex symbol".
Charlton also evokes the correct spirit of Dury the performer as he sings along to loud backing tapes of Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and What a Waste. Josh Darcy, meanwhile, is more subdued as the reformed but still rough-edged Rowe, whose physical power is held in check as Dury gets drunk again and again, becoming his insufferable alter-ego 'Tom'.
Flitting between monologues and dialogue, Jeff Merrifield's play paints a convincing picture of a real brotherhood that's stretched tight by Dury's adherence to all the rock'n'roll clichs.
Yet his life story is also recounted here, and a picture emerges of a boy who grew up stuck in the gap between middle and working class, able-bodied and disabled, artist and artisan. The pair bash out anecdotes with boyish, foul-mouthed glee, which don't just tell us what happened but give us some sense of those involved – the time Dury turned down writing for Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Cats, for example, or his original formation of the Blockheads as "a song what I wrote what became a band".
There are stories, music, humanity and more within this fine production.
Until 25 August. Today 1:25pm