Has the Banshee Labyrinth ever felt so appropriately named? Wild, ear-splitting shrieks swirl around the Cinema room and even sharp-suited daddy cool Dan Lees looks slightly staggered, occasionally, but he’s probably getting used to it. Some of tonight’s giddy-with-glee audience are clearly back for a second, perhaps third time, and bringing everyone they know. This is one of those shows.
The premise – breathing new life into old LP covers – is not dissimilar to Joseph Morpurgo’s Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated Soothing Sounds for Baby, back in 2015. But The Vinyl Countdown is simpler, less cerebral, and – when the multi-talented Lees goes into weird-and-funky guitar-hero mode – causes absolute mayhem. It’s like some evil psychology experiment he’s running down here.
The much-acclaimed performer/director/clowning-guru is a multiple Malcolm Hardee Award winner, and here he funnels those gifts into a wonderfully accessible vehicle, by repossessing obscure cover stars and – crucially – letting the crowd help shape their sound. The result is a singalong from another dimension, hysterically warped jazz, country, balladry and beyond, in bizarre hybrid languages. What on earth must folks wandering those Labyrinthine corridors think?
Lees’ euphoric hour is further evidence of contemporary clowning’s huge crossover potential. This is the same room Viggo Venn had last year, and he wound up winning Britain’s Got Talent. And while you wouldn’t wish that on anyone, it shows the wider power of seemingly silly ideas.
Some might feel guilty, admittedly, for mocking these lost musicians, but it’s all highly affectionate. And, let’s be honest, they probably never enjoyed such an emphatic response the first time around.