Trinity Arts Festival’s Tuesday night events; a performance of Bepo & Co. by DU Players and a screening of the Channel 4 house documentary Pump Up the Volume, followed by a History of House DJ set by Ian Blake, took place at the Sugar Club.
Bepo & Co., written by Tom Vickers and directed by Katherine Murphy, takes the audience backstage to follow a group of six circus performers across a century of wacky and poignant adventures. The script is definitely confident in its ability to skip from one historical milestone to the next as the troupe travel from Moscow, across Europe to America, Columbia, Vienna and a whole host of other locations. The six actors were breezily enthusiastic, often leaping off stage to engage directly with the audience. I found Emer Heatley particularly charismatic in her role as Thursday, while the twins Tragedy and Comedy (played by Ally Ryan and Honi Cooke respectively) provided the majority of the comic relief.
The bare set and minimal props meant that the task of convincingly portraying the circus life fell completely on the shoulders of the cast. By continually interrupting their story to play card games, chase each other off stage, juggle and involve the audience in some rather rude tongue twisters, the performers managed to create a festive circus atmosphere. Besides the very creative use of some bananas, my favourite scene involved Dara Hoban as Harry holding his breath ‘underwater’ – the prop department’s light touch meant that this was created using nothing other than a scarf and some excellent acting.
While at times, the play did begin to feel like a Baz Luhrmann adaptation of Forest Gump (although, on second thoughts, this doesn’t sound like an entirely bad thing), the confident story-telling and a few genuinely touching scenes ensured that Bepo & Co. didn’t have a single dull moment.
The two parts of Pump Up the Volume managed to hit that documentary sweet-spot – neither boring nor superficial, but a hugely entertaining and informative journey through the history of house music. The two-hour film followed house from its roots in R n’ B and disco, via Larry Levan, to Chicago warehouse parties and the acid house, drug-fuelled Summer of Love in ’89. The soundtrack was, of course, excellent. The B52’s (“Rock Lobster”), Donna Summer (“I Feel Love”), Jamie Principal (“Your Love”), Jesse Saunders (“On and On”), S-EXPRESS ( “Theme From S-EXPRESS”), Chip-E (“Time to Jack”) and Mr Fingers (“Can You Feel It?”), to name just a few. Creative use of archival clips and editing helped to capture the atmosphere of the house music explosion. However, the many prominent figures interviewed also emphasised the social and cultural impact of the music. The gay and black nightclub scenes were instrumental to the genre’s development. As it grew in popularity and mainstream acceptance, then-common prejudices were relaxed on the dance floor. As Mel Cheren, a major player in the 1970’s New York house scene, says: “If people can dance together, they can live together.”