Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Danny Baker does not so much acknowledge as boast about his inability to stick to a script or adhere to a timetable. He cheerfully points out that, in an effort to keep him on schedule, management has installed a clock on stage. It doesn’t help.
The title From The Cradle To The Stage suggests a theatre show based on Danny Baker’s autobiographies and the television series that they inspired. This is true to an extent. The issue is that Baker cannot stick to any kind of plan so that he constantly digresses and the show bogs down in anecdotes that, while hugely amusing, do not move the event along. Baker warns the audience that so far on the tour the curfew imposed by venues has been reached while he was still reminiscing about his schooldays. At The Lowry the show does not even get that far.
It is hard to determine if From The Cradle To The Stage has a point to make as it does not so much as reach a conclusion as run out of time. One gets the impression that Act One was supposed to comprise Baker’s childhood memories and some showbiz anecdotes and the second half forming a question and answer session. Tonight, however, the first Act over-runs so much that the showbiz stories are moved into the second squeezing the time available for Q&A and leaving Baker promising that more stories will follow next time around.
The staging for From The Cradle To The Stage is appealingly simple with Baker illustrating his speech with photographs of his community and family. There are, however, limits to how often one can watch slides of strangers before a degree of boredom beings to creep in. Baker’s presentation style is rapid and beautifully phrased with the odour from a local vinegar factory described as a ‘fish and chip Chernobyl.’
Although Baker was raised in an environment of poverty and casual criminality he describes his childhood in glowing terms. Baker seems unable, however, to omit any fact and rattles off the names of his neighbours and the playground rituals of his friends in such exhaustive detail that it is easily apparent why the show over-runs. It is a very rosy picture soaked in nostalgia to the extent that you start to wonder if no one in Baker’s neighbourhood was bullied or the subject of abuse.
The showbiz anecdotes in the second Act are not quite as generous. Baker credits luck for much of his success and sets out some amazing coincidences that have helped his career. There is, however, a slightly sour taste to some of his stories as Baker points out the darker aspects of the famous people he has encountered. There is a frustrating aspect to From The Cradle To The Stage as Baker has wide experience in fields of entertainment ranging from rock music, popular entertainment and football but the limited time available prevents full exploration.
Danny Baker’s boundless enthusiasm and sheer range of subjects makes From The Cradle To The Stage fascinating and entertaining although one cannot help but wonder if a more disciplined approach might have given a richer experience.
Reviewed 18th Februay 2017