Reviewed – 23rd January 2018
“their seeming discomfort bled into the audience, from which came a palpable feeling of unease”
Badback Mountain is billed as ‘a funny and poignant evening of Alt Country music and canny theatrics’. It disappoints on all fronts. The premise was ill-thought through, the jokes would not have been out of place in a cheap Christmas cracker, and the music was middle-of-the-road rock ‘n’ roll with only the merest nod to Nashville. Although Jonathan Holloway seemed a good deal more relaxed on stage than his co-star Liam Grundy, both performers seemed aware of the stilted nature of the filler dialogue, and their seeming discomfort bled into the audience, from which came a palpable feeling of unease. Laughs were thin on the ground and the post-song applause was sparse throughout.
One of the evening’s main problems was that it was never clear what exactly we were watching. The vague overarching premise was two friends, getting on a bit in years, going up to Edinburgh with a show. At the beginning, it seemed that we were sitting in on a rehearsal, with a named off-stage sound engineer called Hope. There was one forgettable folky number in this section – No Girl in Tennessee – but quite what the song had to do with The Rockford Files, which our heroes were apparently basing their show around, remained unexplained. Hope then disappeared and there were some drunken office-party antics from Holloway, with a blonde wig and some rubber bands, which allegedly fed into The Rockford Files skit, but then this too melted away, and suddenly we found ourselves looking at a flip chart diagram of the Pleasance, which had now become the scene for their planned heist. If this sounds messy and incomprehensible, it’s because it was. And the songs seemed to have no relationship with any of these narratives, nor much to speak of with the country music tradition. 24-7, 365 was a reasonable rock’n’roll number, but why was it there?
Why was there a catbox containing an invisible cat named Brexit? Why did the two Starbucks coffees brought in at the beginning remain untouched for the length of the show? Why was the show named Badback Mountain? And why did Grundy and Holloway choose to make this a piece of theatre? They obviously get on famously and enjoy making music together. And it did seem as if everyone would have had a lot more fun if we’d all been in a nice pub somewhere, with a few pints on the go.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Omnibus Theatre until 28th January