Company: I Need To Cher
Performance art collective I Need to Cher specialises in off-the-wall, avant garde cabaret nights themed around the six-decade career of Cherilyn Sarkasian, better know to the world as Cher.
2020 being what it is, attention has turned away from crazy nights to just how to survive. And who better to take life lessons from than a self-deprecating star who has joked that her career longevity means that the apocalypse will be survived by just her and the cockroaches?
Thus was How to Survive the Cherpocalypse born, a socially distanced monologue with slide show and occasional interruptions from other members of I Need to Cher on video.
Making her entrance in a hazmat suit (which she then divests, as unsexily as you’d expect from such a garment, to Cher’s cover of the ABBA song SOS) our onstage Cher delivers a very different sort of impersonation. There is no attempt to ape the singer’s distinctive contralto drawl, nor to emulate the opulence of her costumes. Instead, we get a London accent and tights with runs in.
The DIY element of the presentation is leant into so charmingly that any rough edges, from PowerPoint glitches to props and wigs going astray, add to the charm. And while that is a very different sort of charm to the type the real Cher exudes, it’s very clearly inspired by her.
For the potted biography of Cher’s life — from running away from her mother Georgia Holt to become a Las Vegas dancer, meeting and marrying Sonny Bono, to reinventing herself in the late 1990s with her iconic track Believe — is as inspirational as I Need to Cher make out.
From epithets such as “If it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter,” to “if you fear looking foolish, you’ll never have the opportunity to be great,” mantras plucked from Cher interviews do feel as inspirational as they’re intended to be.
And then there is that aforementioned track. The first 28 seconds of Believe are, we are told, scientifically engineered to release dopamine into the brain, and should be listened to at least 16 times a day. It’s a mantra the slideshow adheres to, repeating the song over most of their video clips, before an onstage recreation of the video. True to form, the glass case in which Cher is trapped in the video becomes a plywood frame wrapped in cling film, but at this stage of the evening we would feel cheated by anything else.
And the ultimate mantra is, of course, also indebted to the same song. How to Survive the Cherpocalypse asks us to believe in life after lockdown. And after an hour in the presence of such inspiring silliness, it feels impossible to believe anything else.
Reviewed on 23 October 2020