Review by Julia Pattison: Turn and Face the Strange at Hull Truck Theatre
Show: Turn and Face the Strange
Venue: Hull Truck Theatre
Dates: Until Saturday, May 4
Review: Julia Pattison
I was an impressionable teenager when David Bowie released his iconic album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972, and I played it over and over again on my record player, it was such a new and exciting sound.
Little did I realise then how close to home those Spiders from Mars were – they were three talented lads from Hull!
Turn and Face the Strange is a stunning multi-media show about Hull rock legend Mick Ronson, featuring a live rock band, a classical ensemble, film projection and story-telling.
Local Hull writer Garry Burnett had long wanted to write the inspirational story of how this Spider From Hull, rose from an estate in East Hull to become the guitarist and arranger behind David Bowie at the height of the Glam Rock chapter of his career, then later how he went on to collaborate with top musicians, including Lou Reed, as producer and arranger.
Garry’s opportunity to make project happen came in the form of the City of Culture 2017, and he began co-writing with Rupert Creed, a Hull writer and theatre director who has lived and worked in Hull for the past 40 years, and collaborating with Assistant Producer Kay Jarvis.
Thanks to all their hard work and vision, this vastly underrated guitar virtuoso is in the spotlight where he deserves, all these years on, “is legacy is helping to foster the next generation of local musicians…”.
The show was narrated by co-writers Garry Burnett and Rupert Creed, along with anecdotes and insights from his family, friends and fellow musicians (some of whom, much to all our delight were playing in the live rock band) into his genius, and also his generous, warm character, told with great affection and admiration. I learnt such a lot about this wonderful man who clearly touched a lot of lives for the better.
Bowie himself, featured on film on a projection screen above the stage (used throughout the show to great effect )praised Mick Ronson effusively. Mick himself, modestly said that, “I can add to this song… ” that was his genius, he “served the song”, knowing exactly what it needed making it an exceptional song.
The combination of superb live music and lighting made for an electrifying experience, tinged with poignancy too, as tragically this genial genius’s life was cut cruelly short at the age of 46. What a lot he packed into those years though, as this show revealed.
Without drummer John Cambridge (The Rats and The Hype) introducing Mick to Bowie, there would have been no collaboration between the two of them, and as Keith “Ched” Cheesman (The Rats) clearly demonstrated, Mick and Bowie brought the best out in each other, and Ziggy Stardust was born.
Credit too, to sensational singer Kristian Eastwood, and singer and guitar player Bobby Joyce, not forgetting charismatic bass player John Bentley (Squeeze).
There was an awful lot squeezed into this stunning show, and time just flew.
The finale “All the Young Dudes” had us all singing along lustily, as we remembered fondly Mick’s collaboration with David Bowie which released “a genie from his imagination, and one that would never be bottled again“ luckily for all of us.