Image: Maria Crocker house band by Richard Lakos for the Other Richard
I got my violin out this morning. Because last night, I went to see Putting the Band Back Together at Northern Stage. Writer Chloe Daykin interweaves music, narrative and emotion to create an exploration of the intimate relationship that each of us develops with our musical instruments, the many reasons that bands split up and you and I stop playing, the inventive excuses that prevent us from picking up our instruments again – and then what happens when we do.
Mark Lloyd himself is not there. This is his story in his words – his life presented as an album – and yet he is not there to tell it. In 2014, Mark was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, decided that what he wanted more than anything else was to put the band back together and then…well yes, you can guess the rest. His physical absence on stage poignantly says it all.
Close friend and theatre-maker Alex Elliott takes on Mark’s role sensitively and convincingly. The original songs of singer and guitarist Ross Millard (from Sunderland band The Futureheads) enhance and emphasise the storyline. And then there’s the rather eccentric personification of emotion expressed visually and vocally by Maria Crocker – both puzzling and delightful.
When the night’s house band of all ages and abilities is invited up onto the stage, everything becomes more chaotic and messy and random – and simply wonderful. Just like real life. The performance isn’t slick and professional; after all, if we waited until we were perfect, none of us would ever perform in public again. And there’s a new emotion now – happiness. Mark is performing with his band and he’s loving it and he feels like his old self again and the audience are clapping and joining in…
And later when we catch sight of our beloved instrument in its case in the corner, we smile as we’re reminded that music is happiness and that life is too short not to play.