Review: Hit Me! The Life & Rhymes Of Ian Dury

By John Nathan, January 15, 2009

Leicester Square Theatre, London WC2

Whatever the rights or wrongs about the row surrounding this biographical show, I cannot help feeling sorry for Jud Charlton. It was his performance as Ian Dury that was the main force behind the production’s West End transfer.

His spat with Chris Langham, who was brought in to brush up writer/director Jeff Merrifield’s script, not only resulted in a flurry of bad press about Langham’s 2007 conviction for downloading child pornography, but with Charlton being replaced by Adrian Schiller. So it must be galling for Charlton that Schiller delivers a convincing portrait as the ’80s pop icon who was more rock punk than punk rock, and who turned his polio disability into hell-raising attitude.

Schiller has got Dury’s singing and speaking growl — a hybrid of good diction and rough cockney — spot on. And he gets excellent support from Josh Darcy as Spider, Dury’s ex-con minder and roady.

They look back with nostalgia at the scrapes and japes during Dury’s tours with The Blockheads, and with Spider’s disapproval at Dury’s serial egomania.

So Dury fans will forgive the cast change. Harder to forgive is producer Irving Rappaport’s decision to back Schiller’s singing with a recorded soundtrack instead of a live band. It prevents the show from being a real cracker.

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Last updated: 9:40am, January 15 2009