North WestReviewSpoken Word

Michael Burndett: Strange Face – The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Matt Forrest

If you took a gander in a skip, what would you expect to find? Some rubbish? Some house bricks? A broken bar stool may be? If you’re really lucky, a replica of Vladimir Tretchikoff’s painting The Chinese Girl. However, you may strike gold and stumble upon a rare musical recording of one your favourite recording artist. That is what happened to Michael Burndett, when he stumbled upon a recording of Cello Song, by Nick Drake.

From the get-go, Burndett levels with the audience, stating we won’t get to hear this recording tonight, which may cause some audience members to be disappointed, but those disappointments will be washed away by the closure of tonight’s show.

Upon hearing a rather disturbing extract from the Werner Herzog documentary Grizzly Man, Burndett has the idea of taking his rare Drake song to every corner of the UK, asking strangers if they would like to listen to the recording and if he could document their response using his (borrowed) camera. What follows is a heart warming, funny, yet touching journey filled with strange coincidences, a stroke of good fortune and most impressive of all, a series of tales and photographs that both capture the eye and the imagination.

On his journey and through his work with the Nordoff Robbins charity, Burndett encounters various celebrities such as Paul Whitehouse, Tom Stoppard and Liam Gallagher who offer their thoughts on Drake’s music: be they positive or negative.  But it’s the stories from the ordinary people Burndett encounters that bring the most pleasure: they include a Chelsea pensioner and a man who may very well have mugged Burndett some years before. Young or old, black or white, everyone’s experience of the recording is unique which is demonstrated through the beautiful photographs projected at the back of the stage.

Burndett is a likable host, an engaging story teller, with a quiet, soothing delivery that captivates throughout. The show is punctuated with moving and funny stories. In addition, we are taken on various tangents which include a mini history of the Wayfinder shoe, something which I had no prior knowledge of but will be scouring E-Bay to lay my hands on a pair!

You don’t have to be a fan of Drake’s work to appreciate Strange Face: in fact, no prior knowledge is required: this is a unique fascinating tale which fully demonstrates the power to move and be moved by the human condition.

Uplifting, poignant and more than a nod to the power of music to bring us together!

Reviewed June 1st 2017 | Image Courtesy of the Estate of Keith Morris

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Bittersweet and beautiful

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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