Inset pic- Terry Serio as Keith Richards. Featured pic- Terry Serio and Abe Mitchell. Production photography by Ross Waldron.
Inset pic- Terry Serio as Keith Richards. Featured pic- Terry Serio and Abe Mitchell. Production photography by Ross Waldron.

Keith Richard is my uncle. We call him Bullswool.

Keith Richards is a founding member of The Rolling Stones, guitar guru, songwriter, consumer of cocaine, and wild man of rock n roll. Playwright Benito Di Fonzo calls him Keef. And swirling around his wonderful new play, A RIFF ON KEEF: THE HUMAN MYTH, there’s a lot of Bullswool.

The truth, like the man, is out there, but the mantle of myth, layered over decades, fudges flesh with fable.  Di Fonzo has fashioned a palimpsest biograph that spans seventy years taking useful information to fire his imagination and his work succeeds a great deal of theatrical satisfaction.

A RIFF ON KEEF: THE HUMAN MYTH is the third in a trilogy of plays written by Di Fonzo and directed by Lucinda Gleeson, the preceding plays focusing on Bob Dylan and Lenny Bruce. The collaboration between writer and director is a winning one, working on the same page to create the alchemy to stage. Gleeson picks up on the riff motif and phrases the piece with an improv feel, with a pace that’s tight but relaxed. It’s a production born from a cross fire hurricane.

Terry Serio looks the real deal, the hair and scarf giving him an uncanny visual resemblance. With his strong characterisation and musical performance, Serio seriously nails Keef, endowing an enigmatic energy to the cheeky, worldly-wise survivor of the traps laid for troubadours, the decades of decadence being off his face and literally out of his tree.

Serio is backed by a band of performers who all do double duty in character creation, singing and instrument playing.

Abe Mitchell evokes the Jagger jut and strut and does a wicked Nick Cave to boot.  A double hoot.

Branden Christine channels Chuck Berry, Queen Elizabeth and robust Rastafarian among others, while Lenore Munro is Marianne Faithful and more, and Dorje Swallow serves up Keefe’s inspirations – Granddad Gus and Howlin’ Wolf.

It’s his gypsy granddad who got Keef interested in music and gave him his disdain for authority and the Establishment. In flashback and apparition, he encourages Keef to search for the secret chord, the harmonic set mythologised in the Bible and eulogised in Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Hugh O’Connor’s set and costume design is a splendid mix of Boho glam and grunge, the graffiti grafted space tattooed with symbolic hieroglyph, and a manually operated revolve.

Sian James-Holland’s lighting sets moods of public and private performance and sharp contrast between nostalgia and now.

Katelyn Shaw makes her debut as a sound designer since completing her training at NIDA this year.

Let’s spend the night together? In company like this, it’s a gas, gas, gas…

Benito Di Fonzo’s A RIFF ON KEEF : THE HUMAN MYTH is playing the SBW Stables Theatre, 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross until Saturday 12th December. Performance times are Mondays to Saturdays at 7pm. There  is also a matinee performance on Saturday 12th December at 2pm. Running time is 90 minutes without interval.

One comment

  1. A group from Theatre Time Sydney looking forward to it on Wednesday – you’re welcome to join us!

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