Theatre review: And the Beat Goes On
Complicity and tragedy in Random Accomplice's new show
Set in the late 1980s – long after Sonny and Cher had divorced, and Cher was on the cusp of making her spectacular comeback – Stef Smith's new play unfolds the aftermath of a personal tragedy.
The central idea, a married couple caught up in private re-enactments of The Sonny and Cher show, appears quirky at first, with Johnny McKnight sporting a comic moustache and a tuneless approximation of Sonny's drawl. Yet as the couple's past is revealed, thanks to the attention of a nosey neighbour, their obsession is exposed as a way of avoiding the horror at the heart of their mundane lives.
Smith's script is complex and layered. The simple story is complicated by the couple's complicity in hiding each other from the truth, and Sonny and Cher, themselves a parody of the hippy couple, and hiding their marital problems beneath show-business schmaltz, become a symbol of a more innocent past.
The slow unveiling of the catastrophe that propelled the couple into their delusion world allows the script to consider its impact on their lives, rather than using it as a sharp shock: by the time the duo convene for their final number, McKnight's character is entering a complete meltdown, held up by his wife, who is inhabited by her sardonic Cher persona. It is as if, to escape their past, they have hidden inside their favourite celebrities.
While the performances are solid, there is a slight lack of conviction in places and the pace meanders at times: Kenny Miller's design and direction is respectful of Smith's script, but the claustrophobia of the relationship is more stated than felt. Yet Smith's words manage to make this a sympathetic and sinister entertainment.
And the Beat Goes On is on tour around Scotland until Fri 24 Apr.