Vagabonds: My Phil Lynott Odyssey at Tara Theatre
Robert Mountford’s one-man tribute to Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott explores interesting questions around identity and the impact that the heroes we look up to as teenagers can have on our life. The show was met with praise at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and now has a two-night run as part of Tara Theatre’s opening season in Earlsfield.
The performer’s energy is consistent throughout, with quick changes of characters achieved through inventive use of props executed slickly and at an impressively fast pace. The story dips in and out of these wonderfully daft, swift persona changes to the autobiographical and revealing glimpses into Mountford’s life growing up in an Irish community of Birmingham; and the parallels shared between his situation and Lynott’s, another mixed-race man living in an Irish Catholic society.
Mountford holds the audience, with his self-penned script complementing his precise comedic timing, creating memorable contrasts of serious moments with sillier ones – such as when he transforms from the rock god onstage into the famous Lynott statue off Grafton Street in Dublin.
The fourth wall is broken regularly and cleverly, with improvised audience interactions creating an intimate feel in this fantastic new theatre space, which opened its doors two months ago.
There are times nearer the beginning when the narrative feels a little jumbled, as the performer – rather impressively – bounds from character to character, from setting to setting. But the ambiguity is less frequent as the story moves along, with the actor self-deprecatingly admitting the need for “coherent narrative” – something that’s met with a roar of laughter from the audience. Occasionally, it is hard to make sense of where the play is going, but in that respect, viewers are with Rob in his journey to discover his place in the world through his musical heroes.
What stands out about this piece is the genuine passion that has gone into creating it – even without being a diehard Thin Lizzy fan anyone can relate to that adolescent feeling of pining after their idols, whether it’s an older sibling or a rock‘n’roll legend. 20 minutes into the play, Mountford sits down and directly explains to the audience the reasons why he wanted to share his story. The consistent strength of the acting, with an ambitious and clever script, makes this a tale worth telling – and one that’s told very well.
Vagabonds: My Phil Lynott Odyssey was at Tara Theatre on 4th and 5th November 2016.