John Cooper Clarke – Review – Bingley Little Theatre
By Duncan Thorne, March 2018
McCartney, Dalai Lama, Sex Pistols, The Sopranos and The Arctic Monkeys. The list of references seems never ending for the ‘Bard of Salford’ John Cooper Clarke, yet he remains something of a best-kept secret to the masses.
The trademark shades and carefully considered attire are to be expected and enjoyed just like his social and cultural verse of every day events that resonate with a diverse crowd.
He’s immediately thought provoking: ‘what is occasional furniture the rest of the time?’ and ‘how deep would the sea be if there weren’t any sponges down there?’
His fragile physique has become an integral part of his act which is noted in the poem ‘Get Back On Drugs You Fat Fuck’, inspired by an ironic heckle he received in Manchester.
‘Hire Car’, explaining how we perversely treat such vehicles (‘pray the person who hired it last didn’t drive it quite so fast’) is delivered in an incredible machine gun style that clearly requires some stamina.
The poetry is interspersed with limericks and story telling. He met the Dalai Lama at Glastonbury after being inspired to remove material possessions from his life in a bid to find enlightenment: “I told the Dalai Lama I only have two belongings: a George Foreman grill and a bottle of disinfectant. He said: ‘Jesus Clarke, you want to get some shit’. It’s a true story.”
His perfect comic timing and delivery is clearly a gift but one that has been fine-tuned by a master craftsman. A very spritely 69, he says there’s never been a better time to be alive and never a worse time to be old with political reference to the state of the NHS during ‘Bed Blocker Blues’.
“They cancelled my blood group last week,” he says before telling how, when waking up in hospital, he expected to find a one-way ticket to Switzerland waiting for him such is the pressure to free beds.
While some of his material is now decades old, it and he remain relevant to the times.
“Complex and bright mind”
Using horse racing parlance in a nod to this week’s Cheltenham Festival, he declares towards the end that ‘we’re reaching the seventh furlong’ and explains how he loves to follow the horses but unfortunately the horses he loves to follow also love to follow horses.
Calls for an encore last just a few seconds. “I was going to milk it (the applause) but there was a staircase involved.”
The performance flowed beautifully giving an insight into a complex and bright mind with more recent material perfectly complementing all time classics including ‘Beasley Street’, ‘Twat’, and ‘Evidently Chickentown’, which featured in a final-season episode of The Sopranos.
The night finished with ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ – as covered by Arctic Monkeys – a love poem void of soppy clichés. ‘Let me be your vacuum cleaner breathing in your dust / Let me be your Ford Cortina I will never rust,’ leaving the crowd in awe.
A brilliantly vibrant performer who should be cherished.