Adrian Berry’s tribute to David Bowie finally finds its shape in the year of the singer’s death. From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, a theatrical road movie evoking Bowie’s London, is on a national tour that comes to Worthing’s Connaught Studio on Wednesday, November 9.
“There was a version of it that was done quite a long time ago. That was 1999, 2000, with at least seven people,” Adrian says. “It was good. It was my first play at the time, and it was quite a success in a small-scale way. David Bowie actually wrote and gave it his blessing. He sent an email asking me to film it, and I never did. I got in contact with him through his agent. It happened just as things were getting big on the internet, and David Bowie said ‘Well done on the success of the production’, but I never filmed it. He had seen the script.
“I had been writing for some youth theatres, and the idea of someone obsessed with a pop star was going through my mind. Another idea was something about a boy in hospital with a wasting disease. I spliced the two ideas together and had this moment of revelation. I decided that the pop star was David Bowie. I think I was just getting into him at the time. But I wasn’t obsessed with him at the time. If I had chosen the singer I was obsessed with, it would have been Adam Ant!”
Anyway, the show emerged, though, as Adrian says, it was not seen widely. Now he has revisited it – and turned it into a one-man show: the tale of a young man with an illness no one can understand who receives an unexpected gift on his 18th birthday, propelling him on a surreal and thrilling journey to London. He performs on the stage where Ziggy Stardust was born, finds himself in Bowie’s bedroom and is led on a treasure trail to discover the truth about himself and his family…
The production features Alex Walton (the lead actor in Suede’s Bowie homage Night Thoughts film) and the voice of comedian Rob Newman as Bowie.
Adrian explains: “I wanted to celebrate Bowie’s art and to take the audience on a journey to where it all began. In bringing Bowie’s history into the 21st century, we can see how his fans today relate to him and why he remains such an enduringly-important figure in popular culture. This show will also be a celebration of the London that formed Bowie, creating his many unique characters and astonishing musical direction.”
But as Adrian says, Bowie’s death in January this year nearly stopped the project happening at all.
“Me and Alex got together to talk about it two or three years ago, and I started work on it. It was a slow gestation. But when Bowie died, I thought we couldn’t now do it. I was just thinking what it would look like if we did. It just seemed disrespectful. But then someone was saying that there were going to be loads of tributes and that some of them would be awful, and that really the real tribute would be to carry on with the show that we were planning.”
It ran for three weeks in London this October and now heads out on the road.
After originally training as an actor in Liverpool, Adrian developed as a writer, director and producer, having success with his own productions Jack Pleasure and Dye Young Stay Pretty, as well as directing national tours of work by writers including David Mamet, Samuel Beckett and Vaclav Havel. His collaborations across circus and theatre have ranged from the National Theatre, the Roundhouse and the London International Mime Festival, as well as developing work with artists including Steven Berkoff and Hanif Kureishi.
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