With faux cobwebs adorning every conceivable part of the musical equipment on stage, the theatre more closely resembled the morning after a student’s Halloween party than a venue for the “special evening of musical collaboration” I was promised.
Then Majiker appeared, clad in a black cape with white painted face and looking like Uncle Fester, and my heart sank. Whilst a very talented musician, I’m afraid to say that Majiker’s contribution simply didn’t work for me. The interlinked story of his songs – the tale of the House of Bones – was never gripping enough to snag my interest.
The formula was repeated over and over. Majiker sang in the voice of the breathless ingénue and played the keyboard (or the Melodica, bonus points for that), followed by a bit of growling into a distorted mic to create the traditional ‘monster’ voice much beloved by B-movies. Next step would be to wander over to the flour-covered drum and beat it with sticks. The flour was a nice touch, arching into the air with every strike, but by the fifth or sixth attempt the idea (and the flour) was wearing a bit thin.
Beatboxing was thrown into the mix, seemingly to shake things up a bit, often with a bit of live sampling. As this was probably the best part of his set, it’s a shame there wasn’t more. All-too-soon it was back to the House of Bones. At times it became so earnest yet so full of cliché I started to wonder whether this was all just an elaborate parody of gothic convention. “Maybe the house doesn’t want us to leave,” he intoned. I certainly did.
Then, in a rapid turnaround of pace, beat poet Dizraeli bounded onto the stage and started urging everyone to “Bomb Tesco”. Looking a tad incongruous in the wannabe Tim Burton set, he nevertheless brought a much-welcomed energy to proceedings.
“When I shout something, you shout it back,” he grinned. “It’s like fascism but more fun.” Joined by fellow performer Indigo Williams, this was the element of liveliness the evening had so far been lacking.
The two – sometimes together, sometimes apart – mused on relationships, stereotypes and the power of names. Both skilled with lyric and rhythm, the rapport was easy to see and the poems’ messages resonated far after completion.
The event concluded with a free-for-all improvisation session. Majiker was brought back onto the keyboard, Williams sang and Dizraeli spoke. The topics – suggested by an enthusiastic, if mad, audience – were varied and bizarre, including dreams, scrambled eggs, cake, last summer and bananas. Though ultimately nonsensical, given the range of topics, it was a relief to end the evening on elation rather than boredom.
Overall, a game of two halves. If The Roundhouse is to continue with Music Box events it really needs to assess what it is trying to achieve. For events such as this to work, it needs some cohesion and a plethora of acts. It’s no less than the performers and audience deserve.