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Saturday, 20 May 2017

REVIEW: Mixtape 90s at Newcastle Live Theatre

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Music Fun From Mixtape

Mixtape - The 90s
Newcastle Live Theatre
Friday 19th May 2017

Have you ever had that water-cooler moment. Everyone else seems to be talking about a show that they’re following and you had not seen it? It might be Lost or Game of Thrones or even The Great British Bake-Off.  Well that’s how it feels at NETG Towers as we hear a succession of really positive reports about Mixtape which goes from strength to strength. The trouble was it always seemed to be on when we had a wedding/son’s parents evening/son’s performance to attend. Not tonight though: finally we would enter the musical gaming arena that is Mixtape and pit our wits against the finest musical minds in the region…

What is Mixtape? It is both a comedy sketch show and a themed music quiz produced by The Six Twenty and directed by Melanie Rashbrooke. By fusing skits using the lyrics of memorable songs, but taken out of context of the original song, you have a show that has the audience laughing at least every 2 and a half minutes.

So we entered the venue and were handed a pen and a quiz sheet with the rules to study. The show is in two halves (side A and side B). The Mixtape Creatives perform a sketch using only the words from the lyrics of a song, though not necessarily in order. Their sketch will be no longer than the original song that inspired it. The audience have to try to guess the song title and artist for each song. At the end someone will win the prize - The Golden Mixtape.

The 90s are full of rich pickings: Blur v Oasis, Boyzone v Westlife, Green Day v Offspring, Mr Blobby v Take That (who can forget the battle for Xmas #1 in 1993?). There was no X-Factor back then, Top Of The Pops beamed the stars into our homes on a Thursday night. We watched, we remember - or certainly we think we can remember.

The energetic troupe bounce onto the stage: James Barton, Steven Blackshaw, Jessica Dawson, Natasha Haws, Dale Jewitt, Lewis Jobson and Caroline Liversidge. We had seen these characters in local bands, panto and theatre productions. We were in safe hands. After brief introductions and a run through the rules the show begins.

Now the concept seems simple: take the lyrics of a well known song and turn it into a new scenario. However, that apparent simplicity hides a lot of clever writing and direction. The writing team includes local heroes such as Melanie Rashbrooke, Nina Berry, Lee Mattinson and Alison Carr who have been responsible from some of the best theatre in the region in recent years.

Some of the songs were immediately obvious, others had you scratching you head until you heard “that line” and the audience collectively reacts with a laugh or a groan as the absurdity of how the scenario has been changed so cleverly. For example: a love song becomes an argument about buying rubbish petrol forecourt flowers as an apology, a heavy metal hit turns into an episode of Jackanory, a grunge hit becomes a popular dance routine. The Jesmond jet-set and Heaton hipsters come in for some shtick too.

This is not quiet theatre. The audience is reacting regularly to what happens on stage. In fact, the crowd is more engaged than many so-called comedy nights. The sketches are also punctuated with loud musical clips of big hits of the time - though they often serve to lead you up a garden path as you are trying to remember that hit that had just been on. Mixtape is an entertaining interactive show that is full of natural pace as the sketches have to change as they cannot be longer than the original song.

The Mixtape performers are very good at what they do. They regularly break the fourth wall and acknowledge the audience. Who thought the simple act of a boy-band sitting down could be so funny?  The ‘3 ringed circus’ feel gives the show the energy of a music gig. 

The music choice was varied. We had the novelty hits, the rock, the pop and the indie. One band was missing from proceedings, but as a Pulp/Blur man myself, I found their omission quite funny in itself.

There is also a fancy dress competition for those who want to relive the 90s youth fashion. The winner gets the silver mixtape as a prize.

By the end of the evening we had done more than score 38 points: we had a cracking night out with an energetic cast looking back at a great era of music.  It is a slick comedy, music and a quiz rolled into one and it works.

Would I lie to you? Believe me. No matter what, Mixtape will hopefully be back for good as you can’t touch this, so, pull up a chair, sit down with the common people and go boom boom boom with the boys & girls. We will return, baby, one more time, otherwise it’d be a tragedy.

Now where is that 90s compilation CD?: “You gotta roll with it, You gotta take your time…”

Review by Stephen Oliver


Tickets:
The Six Twenty present...Mixtape The 90s at Sunderland’s Peacock, previously known as The Londonderry pub, (please note: venue change) on Tuesday 30th June 2017 at 7.30pm as part of Sunderland Stages. Tickets £5.00

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