Writer and Performer: Christopher Brett Bailey
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
If wordplay was an Olympic sport, Christopher Brett Bailey would be a dead cert for gold. Bailey celebrates the power of the word, attacking us from the starting gun with a machine gun barrage of poetic observation. It’s a performance so packed with speed and linguistic dexterity that you begin to wonder if Bailey is actually breathing.
Like a high-octane road journey novel, Bailey takes across America to look at life, love and loss in a tale that is both macabre and uplifting at the same time. Death is never far away, but there’s also hope and humour though always tinged with the sense of the absurd.
With nothing more than a desk, a microphone and his notes, Bailey draws us into his verbal escapades. It’s often a surreal journey – smoking mice, decapitated priests and Nazi future in-laws all feature – but it’s also strangely identifiable. The challenges of relationships, the uncertainty of what path to take and the questioning of the meaning of life, all making for compelling viewing.
There’s such a cascade of words here that at times it’s hard to digest every single line but Bailey is a master storyteller and the intensity of delivery makes the audience lean forward in their seat, desperate to catch every inflection and syllable. Like the road journey being described we are eager to know where this particular trip ends but Bailey, ever the showman, has a trick up his sleeve.
As the lights dim on his desk and the stage plunges into darkness the audience are blasted with a wall of light and sound. It is a visual and aural overload and, as the volume and intensity increases over 10 minutes the aural transforms into a physical reaction. It’s a challenging but ultimately cathartic experience that places the entire piece into context.
Bailey’s engaging stage presence may suggest a casual approach to his text, but it’s a deceptive ease that masks the precision wordplay and delivery that lifts this show into the something special category.