'Something else' indeed.
We're plunged directly into the half-light world and mind of the unapologetic one-time drug addict and pioneer of the cut-up novel, William Burroughs. On stage, tall and lean, Andy Curtis captures the drawling disdainful attitude and the elegant dissipation of Burroughs, while the two worldly women in slinky black dresses (Denise Clarke and Onalea Gilbertson) are firmly posed, looking out at the audience, with two other men on stage dressed in white shirts and black trousers.
This is Minimalism in staging and in wardrobe. Very Black and White. And the blocking for the five performers is equally graphic and geometric in its spacing. Such Minimal staging is clearly a choice made by the One Yellow Rabbit company, and whether this Minimal style suits a musical about the Beats is a question best left to the critics. This piece has an identity.
Dream Machine has been called a musical without plot and characters, but it's actually a musical revue, and David Rhymer's song cycle is the absolute beating heart of this sometimes spoken and acted, sometimes sung and danced, highly engaging collage-like piece. Rhymer's blue-tinged, jazz-like music is played beautifully by the onstage musicians Jonathan Lewis (violin), Peter Moller (drums and percussion) and David Rhymer (keyboards). Audience heads swayed to the rhythmic pulse.
Here are some standout moments:
Michael Green declaims with frustration Ginsberg's line: "America, when will you be angelic?", then cries out, "You don't really want to go to war. (Sounds just like today, doesn't it?)
The entire cast of five is onstage, singing "Tears From Mohammed's Eye", they sing together: "God is lazy, Allah is bored, and Buddha wants a bride.
Onalea Gilbertson's heart-rending, "Surrounded by Chrome", and its sorrowful refrain, "This is a nice house/But it's not my home."
"I dream of you. You dream of me." The last words spoken.
Dream Machine is all mood and the subconscious.
The slotted light from the Dream Machine glows huge at the centre of the dark stage.
I say definitely check out this musical. Open up to the minds and frustrated dreams of these literary outlaws, these intelligences who lit out for the frontiers of society, away from all the conformity. Go inside.