‘I took saxophone lessons for six months until I dislocated my jaw. How did I know I was supposed to blow in the small end?’ – Tommy Cooper
I’m writing this blog post first thing in the morning, which means I currently have a front-row seat for a live rendition of Delilah – Sam on vocals, Tom on keys, Jojo on kazoo. The Monster Raving Loony company have been kicking off most rehearsal days with a music call, blasting out the many songs featured in the show. The prospect of working on versions of so many classic comedies was what initially excited me about getting rehearsals underway, but I now look forward to hearing Jethro Tull live and loud in the morning just as much.
Monster Raving Loony is a show that buzzes with sound (and occasionally, literal buzzers) – whether it’s the songs played live by the cast or the variety of live sound effects that can bring a smile or a smirk to your face. Whilst a lot of plays use music to soundtrack the action onstage, occupying the background of the performance, Monster Raving Loony frequently puts it front and centre, creating the lively, warm and welcoming atmosphere of a gig.
It all comes back to Screaming Lord Sutch, the centre of the show: not only the founder of the Monster Raving Loony Party, but also the lead singer of The Savages, who performed on Top of The Pops and played at Wembley. A song from Sutch’s back catalogue, Jack The Ripper, features in the show (the cast are playing it now, with our resident drummer Jack giving Animal from the Muppets a run for his money!). There was never a dull moment when Sutch sang – whether he was being brought onstage in a coffin, or running around brandishing an enormous fake axe – something we’re working hard to emulate in our own show.
For me, starting every day this way is a sharp and constant reminder of what’s important to this show: exuberant, energetic fun, which, no matter the story being told at any one point, always seeks the entertaining way to tell it. In the last hour alone, I’ve heard everything from Shirley Bassey to skiffle anthems, with the immensely talented company turning their hands to playing keyboards, drums, ukulele, flute, guitar, bass, washboard, spoons, harmonica and more.
Every time I hear a song in the rehearsal room, I can’t help but mouth along with the words or tap my feet in time, instinctively wanting to join in. But that’s the other wonderful thing about the music in the show – it’s not for the company to play, whilst the audience simply sit and listen. In a show about a man who inspired people to engage and get involved with politics – and revel in silliness whilst they did so – it only makes sense that those onstage aren’t the only ones who’ll be making music during the performances…