Mark Billingham and My Darling Clementine in The Other Half – Review – Junction Goole
By Sarah Morgan, February 2018
I make no bones about it, I’m a fan of author Mark Billingham. I’ve read his books and have seen him do numerous talks at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, where he’s always good value. So when I discovered he was appearing just a short drive from home at Goole’s Junction arts venue, I jumped at the chance to see him in action again. However, I was slightly baffled by what he would be doing. Who or what were My Darling Clementine? And what was The Other Half?
It seemed I wasn’t the only person confused by the publicity material, such as it was – only 20 people ventured out to give it go, but they were rewarded with two hours of literary and musical entertainment, delivered in a rather unique way.
As fans of Billingham’s work will already be aware, his most famous creation is Tom Thorne, a detective who loves country music, a passion the writer shares. A fan recommended the duo My Darling Clementine to him, he then mentioned them in a novel, and they became friends, eventually deciding to work together on a project; ‘The Other Half’ is the result.
“Backdrop of vintage photos”
Billingham has written a short story set in Memphis about an ageing showgirl-turned-waitress called Marcia and the people she meets and works with at a local bar. The tale offers insights into their lives, and ends in what could be described as a surprising manner to say it’s come from the mind of a man who delivers crime tales for a living.
Between Billingham telling segments of the story (complete with middling US accents, both male and female), My Darling Clementine add atmosphere by performing songs specially written to accompany it; it all takes place on a minimally decorated stage, against a backdrop of vintage photos projected on a large screen.
The result is a compelling mix of theatre and music, with good, old-fashioned storytelling at its heart.
“Hear a pin drop”
Billingham, a former stand-up comedian and actor, knows how to get an audience eating out of the palm of his hand, and you could have heard a pin drop as we hung on his every word. My Darling Clementine, which comprises of husband-and-wife team Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, performed wonderfully, their often heartbreaking vocals providing the perfect soundtrack.
The show ended with a few more familiar songs, and even Billingham – who clearly loved every second of this particular aspect of the performance – joining in for the final Ray Price number.
It may have been a rather more intimate evening than expected but a good time was had by all. If you get a chance to see it, grab it with both hands because it’s unlikely you’ll witness anything else quite like it again.