On Tuesday evening I was kindly invited to the press night of Endless featuring N:Dless, a brand new, documentary style piece of gig theatre about a fictional band who nearly rose to epic stardom, produced by Trifle Gathering Productions (a local Cornish company). I love supporting new writing in the South West, and it was great to visit The Drum for the first time in years – it definitely made me feel as though I was back at the Edinburgh Fringe!
The cast was comprised of four performers, each of whom contributed something unique to the overall performance, yet they also worked together brilliantly as a dysfunctional unit. Sally Crooks (manager and co-producer of Trifle Gathering Productions) portrayed Eggy, a youthful yet wise member of the group. I adored her enthusiasm and of course, those dungarees!! Mary Woodvine played the role of Sarey, a stunning Irish-woman with an incredible voice… and that accent was flawless. Dean Rehman was the angry and potentially misunderstood Malcom – the leader of the group (by his own description!). Dave was portrayed by the talented Joe Carey – potentially the most understated of the four band members, but in the most brilliant way. I very much enjoyed his forays into actor musicianship through his playing of both the saxophone and the didgeridoo! Not many shows can boast a didgeridoo, that’s for sure.
The show was split into two halves: the highs and the lows. Advertised as a music documentary for the stage, it begins with the four band members of N:Dless talking about themselves, their lives and the ups and downs of band life. I really liked the way that the audience learned about how the band came to life, and the time jumps between the past and present day were done very cleverly indeed, gradually piecing together a timeline of the band’s existence.
One element that I thought worked really well was the use of video on the back wall. The videos were often used to distract the audience during scene or costume changes, and it really did work! This further contributed to the documentary feel of the production, as we got to see interviews with the band’s supposed contemporaries such as Basement Jaxx and Chumbawamba (yes I did just have to Google that name – at times I felt a little too young to understand some of the 90s references!). The screen also worked well in informing the audience of time and location shifts, and the fact that a lot of the locations were local to the South West was a nice personal touch.
There were plenty of funny moments in the script (by Kyla Goodey and Sally Crooks), but it touched on several more serious themes too, including strained family relationships, mental health issues and terminal illness. I felt that Dave’s storyline towards the end was particularly moving, as the most easygoing and jokey band member suddenly had something terrible to deal with. The heated argument scenes between Eggy and Malcolm were brilliantly written too, and I’m sure that every audience member could relate to at least one of the complex storylines included in the script.
As I mentioned earlier, the small venue felt so ‘fringey’ to me. There was a strong connection between the on stage characters and the audience, constantly breaking the fourth wall, particularly during the gig scenes. The performers ran up and down the aisle, high fived people in the audience, and even directed certain lyrics at individual people! I also enjoyed the exchange between Malcom and the sound guy at the back of the theatre, yet again making the whole experience seem a lot friendlier than larger scale theatre productions. It was a shame that the audience weren’t a bit more hyped up though – this particular Plymouth audience was rather quiet and tame! (Especially during the ‘I say ‘N’, you say ‘Dless” sequence which I found very funny and definitely joined in with!).
I really enjoyed watching this production which felt half way between a theatre show and a gig. As a musician myself it was fascinating watching the scenes where the band were working out new songs and chord progressions, and I definitely believed that they were a real band at times! I would certainly recommend this production to anyone with an interest in what goes on behind the scenes in a band’s life, but also to anyone who enjoys theatre (especially new writing!).
Endless featuring N:Dless runs at The Drum at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 4th May, before embarking on a tour of several South West venues. View tour dates here.
Disclaimer: I was invited to the press night of Endless featuring N:Dless but all views and opinions expressed here are my own.