On paper, Last Night is exactly what London theatres should be showing. Celebrating, mourning and mimicking London’s diminishing night club culture, the billed spoken word and music performance would appeal to anyone who first learnt to love this city in one of its many nightspots, from internationally-renowned Fabric to Dalston’s now deceased Passing Clouds.
The work is conceived and performed by Benin City, a trio of London club lovers, Joshua Idehen, Shanaz Dorsett, and Tom Leaper, as they seek to defend the club scene that has acted as catalyst for hundreds of beautiful human stories. As Idehen himself announces, “Music is protest.”
On vocals Idehen and Dorsett act both as comperes and, at points, London characters playing out the typical scenes that take place under the cover of darkness, or rather, under the bright strobe lights of the club. The opening narrative lulls you into thinking this will be a full narrative performance; they promise 11 stories from the club scene. But the reality is less simple, the following songs choosing not to follow a linear narrative or tale. It’s more concept album than theatrical spoken word.
The spell is further broken by the frequent nervous glances, grateful giggles and the lingering silences that smack slightly of technical glitch. In fact. strange pauses become a leitmotif of the work. It’s hard to decipher if they are the result of trying to be purposefully meaningful, or if they rather embody a lack of confidence about what song’s next.
That said, the energy that Idehen gives to the performance is infectious, and his sincere love for the stage, and this work, is betrayed at every turn. His boyish grin, pink trousers and those snaking hips, steal the show. Dorsett, while less flamboyant, commands attention with a sweet and surprisingly powerful vocal that really shines on the slower numbers.
The writing seeks shelter in comedy, but actually succeeds with its more serious moments. The duet sung as an older former clubbing couple seeking to “turn the car around” and rediscover each other and music is a poignant and touching example of this. It begs the question whether a greater focus on one narrative throughout would push an energetic evening into something more heartbreaking, and effective.
The live band led by Leaper, who effortlessly alternates between saxophone and keyboard, are obviously extremely talented, but could be slicker. There is a moment of silence too many that suggests that they may not have been deliberate.
Last Night is full of energy, enthusiasm and has the potential to be a very moving, authentic show. The audience was full of friends, smiling faces, and dancing bodies; the community was there, but sadly the performance needs more confidence, and a more consistent narrative, to do London’s world-class club scene justice.
Last Night played Roundhouse on May 30.