In The Beginning
Singer-songwriter Brian Madigan (a Band named Brian) is famed for his lengthy, spoken intros. At a Fringe performance, some years ago, he brought the house down when he introduced his last song but ran out of time to perform it.
So, Brian thought, what if he were to remove the songs altogether – only thinking them ‘out loud’ as the audience were invited to imagine them? Would that be deeply uncomfortable? Transcendental? A brief moment of sanity amid the cacophony of everyday madness?
The resulting show, ‘Think of a Song’, looked at what it means to be ‘in the moment’. The shared experience of prolonged silences was certainly not to everyone’s taste. However, few who were there could deny it will remain with them for some time to come.
The Middle Bit
The first show was very well received. So, Brian devised a follow-up – the similarly off-kilter ‘Think of a Sequel’. In this piece, even the performers had no idea what to expect. Roughly speaking, the theme this time was ‘having found ourselves in the moment, what on earth do we do with it?’.
A hand-selected group of top music improvisers was convened. These all had connections with Brian but had never before met. Moreover, they did not know any of the songs to be performed.
During the show, they listened – along with the audience – to Brian’s spoken intros. They then improvised entirely spontaneously, with no fixed genre, key, tempo or instrumentation. To this impromptu backing, Brian then had the challenge of delivering brand new renditions of each song.
The End… Or Not?
It only seemed appropriate to end with ‘Think of a Conclusion’. Looking at endings in general – and the big one specifically – it explores our innate antipathy to finishing things off. Brian also confronted his own failure to let key people know what they meant to him before it was too late.
Brian encouraged the audience to take solace in the notion that all things are cyclical. He considered how each ending ushers in a new beginning and that, perhaps, our fears are misplaced. The underlying message was to concern ourselves with the impact of our actions and the influence we exert on those around us right now.
The audience entered to find Brian, joined by drummer/producer Dom Bailey and bassist Daniel Whiston, on stage, playing the final song of the show (‘Avin it Large’). The band took their bows and left the stage. Ambling back on to pack away, Brian noticed the audience still there and engaged them with stories and songs as the band cleared up.
And There’s More…
Each show contains surprise elements. These have the effect of removing the audience from their default passive position. All three, as well as dealing with the core themes described, also serve to deconstruct what it means to ‘be at a show’. Boundaries between performer and viewer are blurred and, at times, removed completely.
The result is a trilogy of shows that provokes, confounds, inspires and amuses. Above all, though, they entertain. Whilst exposing those in attendance to some fairly weighty topics and ideas, the bottom line is for them to have a bloody good night out.
Which – it appears – they do (see quotes above).