I’m With The Band

Published August 30, 2013

It is rare that an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman should come together without inducing amusing consequences. But throw a Welshman into the mix and the comedy stakes go through the roof.

After all it is Matthew Bulgo who raises the most laughs as the meek and modest Welsh bass guitarist in Hamish Pirie’s production of I’m With The Band, which has transferred to the St James theatre from the Wales Millennium Centre.

The quartet of nationalities in Tim Price’s play form The Union, a band name with so much irony that it’s hard to imagine how they ever came to be together. Opening the production with one of the evening’s most striking numbers We’re All In This Together, the group’s so-called union is soon shattered when they discover that their manager has failed to pay any VAT, leaving them in a bit of a sticky situation, not to mention a significant amount of debt.

Things are so bad, in fact, that lead guitarist Barry wants to leave, putting the futures of his bandmates in doubt. However, as the play progresses, their financial concerns and disintegrating friendships become the least of their worries as fraught relationships at home come to the fore and making music is superseded by writhing on the floor in their underwear.

Alongside Bulgo’s comic performance as a Welshman with low self-esteem, Declan Rogers makes for an energetic Irishman, star-jumping, press-upping and lunging across the stage, James Hillier is a dominating and patronising Englishman who only has faith in his own ideas and Andy Clark’s wannabe Scottish soloist Barry provides a suitable metaphor for the independence of his country.

Yet it is Gordon McIntyre’s score that stands out in this production that merges music gig with theatre, featuring hits – including Welsh Self-Esteem, New Country For Old Men, An Independent Scotland, How To Lose Friends And Alienate Countries and Hell Is An English Garden – so catchy that it isn’t hard to believe how the band had come to endure such success.

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