The Other Half

Birmingham Rep Studio

***

BUILDING the bridge between story and song, Birmingham author Mark Billingham shares his Southern American tale as My Darling Clementine help set the authentic atmosphere with a backdrop of song.

Although not as visual as one would expect, the concept is good. Billingham is a highly esteemed writer.

Winning Theakston’s Crime Novel Of The Year Award reflects the calibre of art the audience are offered. In his home town and with an idea that turns the pages of the novel into a physical product, Billingham lays his works out in the open in an interesting medium that brings words up on their feet for an interactive showcase of The Other Half.

This is not dramatic by any stretch of the imagination; however an open mind and a focus to tune-in on Billingham’s words are required to enjoy the complexity and raw emotion that the local writer has to offer.

Billingham is passionate, not only in ways of presentation but it is clear that he believes every word that he has created and wants the audience to feel a slow and nostalgic view of love and life. He takes us through a journey of his mind, reading us his own work. It is a story of a journey of lovers marred by time and every day obstacles that life has to give.

He presents a story of trouble and emotion that is bold and sometimes sad to hear. It is a tragedy of the mundane. At times, it was easy to drift in and out of consciousness and to lose concentration. This is not because of a lack of talent, Billingham is a master of words. But presented as if the audience were listening to a long sermon, it was easy for the essence to be lost.

Billingham spoke from a stand to the side, as a few static pictures were shown on a projection screen. His powerful stories and words would have had their rightful praise if more visual action were to happen throughout his narration.

All was not dreary and the second half looked livelier as the emphasis of song was clearly a pick-me-up for the audience.  The singer/songwriter band, My Darling Clementine also from Birmingham highlighted a tender emotion and conveyed a lonely atmosphere that Billingham wanted to achieve within his words.

My Darling Clementine are a wonderful art form to behold and they grasp the genre of country music with an elegant charm. Billingham’s project would not have been complete without this wonderful asset. In the first half, the husband-wife duo weave into Billingham’s story with works of their own creation, giving the story its backbone and really allowing the audience to reflect upon its emotive journey.

The second half was a perfect way to showcase what the duo had to offer. With own written songs in the country genre and voices that were awe-inspiring, My Darling Clementine surely told their own story with songs. Some numbers were touching in its purest form in where they opened up and invited the audience into their lives. A cathartic therapy that the audience were more than thankful for.

The Other Half, although interesting to witness, could have easily been injected with a spark of movement and action. In spite of an epic description of love and loss from Billingham and My Darling Clementine, there was scope for the story to come alive, as it needed a lot of encouragement from the imagination to be able to do so.

This was a  pleasurable experience nonetheless and reflected impeccable talent and created an authentic southern atmosphere of the trials of relationships that Billingham suggested within his work.

Elizabeth Halpen

10-11-14 

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