How to survive the Cherpocalypse ☆☆☆
There is a witty line, author unknown, that claims in the event of a nuclear apocalypse only Cher and cockroaches will survive. Whether this is down to the amount of plastic surgery she has had or her ability to constantly reinvent herself and subsequently achieve more spectacular comebacks than Lazurus the quote is not specific. This show takes this conceit as its jumping off point and creates a quirky cabaret with a lot of heart.
Classic numbers such as “I Got You babe” and “Just like Jesse James” greet us as we take our seats in this socially distanced production at The Space – a converted church in London’s East End.
The opening scene is reminiscent of Banquo’s ghost as a figure (Heather Bandenburg) comes on to spooky music in full hazmat gear and points at the life size cut out of Cher sitting centre stage amidst (electric) candles. When we learn that this show has been postponed due to the actual apocalypse happening the audience gives a wry laugh and we understand we are to join Cher in her bunker and prepare to hear four tips on how to survive the raging apocalypse.
The plays structure takes us through her life starting with her mum, then her marriage to Sony Bono, and of course the ups and downs of her career. We get some great quotes along the way including: “Men aren’t necessities. They’re luxuries”, and the classic; “My mom said to me, ‘One day you should settle down and marry a rich man.’ I said, ‘Mom, I am a rich man.'” The theme of the show; of independent women making it on their own terms, starts to reveal itself. Visual gags abound including Sonny Bono who is represented by a male blow-up doll and at one point is packed away in a cardboard box. Whilst not subtle it is funny, and the audience is still laughing at the end of the show which is always a good sign.
The premise of the piece is great but there is the occasional disappointment including the chaotic stagecraft which conspired to work against the success of the piece. In addition, the show is heavily reliant on photographic slides and video and apparently the only way to operate this is for the actor to shout out “New slide!” which gives the whole proceedings the atmosphere of a slightly deranged Ted talk.
The cavernous, slightly formal setting of The Space is not perhaps the best environment for this piece either – it might work better in a cabaret pub context that would be truer to their roots as the programme notes tell us; “the show came out of a collective of performers called ‘I need to Cher’ creating a DIY club night in 2017, and whose circus, drag, comedy, dance and wrestling acts have stormed Latitude Festival”.
At one point the phrase “Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great” is projected onto the wall. These are indeed valuable tips for all of us, not just how to survive the apocalypse, but rather how to survive life itself. When Bandenburg strips and dances naked for the finale she is living her life by that maxim: she just gives it a go and is ready to push her own personal boundaries. This is her statement.
How to survive the Cherpocalypse https://space.org.uk/
REVIEW : JONNY WARD
Jonny Ward, Queerguru Contributing EDITOR is a drama graduate but has worked backstage for many years at venues such as The ROYAL ALBERT Hall, The 02, Southbank Centre and is currently at The NATIONAL THEATRE. He lives in Hoxton, London and is delighted to check out the latest, the hottest and the downright dodgy in queer culture for Queerguru. (P.S. He is currently single) @JonnyWard360
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