Home » Reviews » Alternative » Standby for Tape Back-Up, Shoreditch Town Hall – Review
Credit: Murdo MacLeod
Credit: Murdo MacLeod

Standby for Tape Back-Up, Shoreditch Town Hall – Review

Pros: A brilliantly original approach to storytelling using video tape, with some cool rap thrown in for good measure.

Cons: The cavernous, badly lit venue did itself no favours.

Pros: A brilliantly original approach to storytelling using video tape, with some cool rap thrown in for good measure. Cons: The cavernous, badly lit venue did itself no favours. There is a school of thought that men are simple creatures who just need to be fed, watered and have their bellies rubbed. Whilst there is undoubtedly some truth in this statement, it only tells half the story. More often than not there’s a concealed complexity just because men can’t or won’t articulate their feelings. Ever mindful of generality, I’m certain I got the measure of Ross Sutherland’s thought-provoking performance.…

Summary

Rating

Excellent

A funny, perceptive study of the emotional frailty that lies inside us all if only we look closely enough.

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There is a school of thought that men are simple creatures who just need to be fed, watered and have their bellies rubbed. Whilst there is undoubtedly some truth in this statement, it only tells half the story. More often than not there’s a concealed complexity just because men can’t or won’t articulate their feelings. Ever mindful of generality, I’m certain I got the measure of Ross Sutherland’s thought-provoking performance. Two years ago, Ross found an old VHS videotape in his loft. As he spooled through he realised it represented the story of his life: a series of emotional signposts rationalising the ups, downs and inbetweens of childhood and youth. The performance begins with a clip of The Wizard of Oz, incongruently backed by Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Ross explains that he often saw patterns that weren’t really there, especially in film, TV and radio. Like when you’ve just broken up with a girlfriend and every song on the radio seems to have been put there just to torment you? Oh, I’m on the same page as you Ross! Over the course of an hour he plays the aforementioned videotape and speaks with deep emotion of the time he spent with his grandfather in Edinburgh. Each clip represents a metaphor in his life: a shaky clip of Ghostbusters followed by The Fresh Prince of Bel Air; The Crystal Maze and Richard & Judy. A Natwest ad from the 80s is especially poignant for Ross, reminding him of four years as a bank employee; the advert portrays a callow youth making eyes at a girl in the office with the now infamous tag line ’well of course we do, it’s not all work!‘. Ross completes his video odyssey with a clip of Jaws and the telling observation that director Stephen Spielberg took sharks out of the film to save it, just proving that you don’t need to see something to believe in it.

You sense a certain catharsis in Ross’s story. He relates his bouts of asthma, spells of depression and a late grandfather with whom he had unfinished business, but also the realisation that TV helped him clarify his emotions and banish his demons. He has created a performance of great originality that is both funny and moving. He proves that white boys can rap as he introduced some streetwise observations on the human condition, and you’ll even discover the relevance of spontaneous confabulation. My only real criticism is of the venue itself: Shoreditch Town Hall is old and in severe need of renovation. Members of the audience were led into a basement lined with bare pipes and then back upstairs to the performance area, which simply wasn’t conducive. Just as well the show compensated for the surroundings.

Author: Ross Sutherland
Director: Rob Watt
Lighting Design: Tom Clutterbuck
Video Design: Sam Meech
Producer: Show and Tell
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run at Shoreditch Town Hall, but will play at the Soho Theatre from 6-11 July 2015.

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.