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THE BRITISH INVASION (article first published : 2007-04-22)

Once you’ve got your head around four somewhat mature musicians dressed as The Beatles and launching into A Hard Days’ Night … and you’re prepared for an energetic and fast moving rollercoaster ride at full blast, then you’ll love The British Invasion, the new show at The Dockyard Theatre in Musgrave Centre.

The production features the music of British singers and bands who took their talents and music across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States and virtually invaded the country. Prior to the 1960’s, the US had been dominated largely by artistes such as Andy Williams, Perry Como, Elvis and Buddy Holly.

Along came the Brits and changed all that! Spearheaded by the Beatles (the name was inspired by Buddy Holly’s band, The Crickets), who burst onto the scene in 1962, the “invasion back-up” featured pop groups like Herman’s Hermits, The Dave Clark 5, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Hollies (taking their name from Buddy Holly), The Animals, The Rolling Stones and many others started having hit records in the USA. Things got so bad, that in 1965 the US government put an embargo on work permits for British bands to save American groups from being ignominiously toppled off the US charts.

The show is hosted by genial master of patter Dave Arnold in a variety of guises such as the vertically challenged Captain Horace Fortescue Trefusis Paynter and his equally amusing Austin Powers. Karen Wood makes a welcome return to The Dockyard Stage, performing as Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Helen Shapiro, Petula Clark, Sandi Shaw, Bonnie Tyler and KT Tunstall. Bringing a genuine British touch to the show are musical all-rounders - Andrew Jones and his brother Ian Jones. Making his Dockyard debut is tall and engaging Albert Bristow. Special mention must be made of Gerald Knott for his performance in Dire Straits’s Sultan of Swing.

As I said before, the show is seriously loud. So it’s not a good choice for a quiet, relaxing evening out but rather for one that grabs you with the feisty energy shown by those early British groups as they invaded new ground. The songs are belted out at full power and I began to wonder whether the volume wouldn’t actually fill the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre!

The Dockyard had much success with their recent tribute show to the Bee Gees, which ran an extra month to cope with public demand. Judging by the response from tonight’s audience, it looks as if The British Invasion is set to follow suit.

Full marks for impressive lighting, much improved sound and an attractive and effective set with a suitably London-themed backdrop painted by Maryke Viljoen. Staging was better with performers clearing the stage quickly and efficiently to allow the next item to follow smoothly.

We really enjoyed our meal, having chosen succulent calamari rings and a huge garlic roll followed by a very tender sirloin steak for me and linefish for my other half. We were warned that unless you have a stomach made of cast iron, the Peri-Peri Steak fingers should be approached with caution! The third starter dish is ‘Tato Skins and the other main course options are Chicken Laurelle and Thai Stir-fry. Desserts include Dockyard’s famous chocolate cake, Fruit Salad & Ice Cream, Baked Cheesecake and Baileys Dom Pedro.

The British Invasion runs until June 2. Bookings through Karen on 031 201 9147. – Caroline Smart




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