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Chasing Bono review at Soho Theatre, London – ‘a tale of ambition, fame and failure’

Niall McNamee and Shane O'Regan in Chasing Bono at Soho Theatre, London. Photo Helen Maybanks
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Adapting their 2011 movie Killing Bono – itself an adaptation of music critic Neil McCormick’s only-slightly-bitter memoirs – writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais tell an offbeat story of ambition, fame and failure.

Watching his former schoolmate grow into a global superstar, wannabe punk McCormick find himself chasing Bono’s success, first as a frontman, then as a journalist. A series of flashbacks fill in the details, teased out at gunpoint by gangster Danny Machin, played by an affable, fatherly Denis Conway.

After a striking opening scene, director Gordon Anderson lets the pace settle into a rut of knockabout banter, musical breaks, and angsty but undeniably believable soul searching.

Doing a thoroughly convincing Bono impression, Shane O’Regan nails the singer’s mannerisms and solemn drawl, developing in just a few brief scenes from cocky teenager to music icon. Farzana Dua Elahe gets too little to do as sidelined love-interest, Gloria, though some great non-verbal work in a crucial breakup scene provides the show’s most emotional moment.

As McCormick, Niall McNamee confidently struts along the fine line between underdog and self-entitled fantasist, gradually winning the audience over with dejected, deadpan one-liners and a strong, if intentionally rough-around-the-edges voice in the frequent musical interludes.

Those songs, written by McCormick himself, certainly couldn’t be mistaken for rock anthems. But there’s a recognisable sense of yearning in his earnest lyrics and melancholy pop-rock melodies, which remain – like the production as a whole – appealing, if a little mediocre.

 

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Verdict
Live music and light comedy energises this entertaining if contrived biography
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