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

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.

 

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

Production Information

Production
Chasing Bono
Venue
Soho Theatre
City
London
Starts
December 8, 2018
Ends
January 9, 2019
Press night
December 13, 2018
Authors
Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Director
Gordon Anderson
Set
Max Dorey
Lighting
Christopher Nairne
Sound
Joe Dines
Stage manager
Catriona McHugh (stage manager), Rose Capell Carbon (assistant stage manager)
Cast includes
Niamh Bracken, Denis Conway, Ciaran Dowd, Farzana Dua Elahe, Donal Finn, Niall McNamee, Shane O’Regan
Producer
Sally Humphreys Productions, Covent Garden Productions, David Elias
Running time
1hr 30min