Thursday, 23 January 2003

Ben(t) by Ben Grant, La Mama, Jan 23, 2003

Ben(t)  by Ben Grant
 La Mama, Jan 23 to  Feb 9, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Ben Grant takes one afternoon of his life and makes an unassuming narrated musical show of it with director, Louis Dingemans.

The particular afternoon may not be the most interesting or compelling, but his experience of it was clearly exceptional.

One day, while travelling in an Asian country, Grant found himself very doped up on marijuana which, according to his telling, makes him notoriously sensual.

The quantity and potency of the dope seems to have made these few hours memorable so he wrote a series of songs about it and put them together with a very personal style of story-telling. He sits on a stool and sings into a microphone, playing his original songs on acoustic guitar.

The songs range across styles from ballads through blues to some that are so packed with lyrics they resemble contemporary patter songs.

Grant has charm and engages the audience in spite of some opening night nervousness and the rapid pace at which he played the show.

It is a journey of self-analysis which is not quite fully formed. We are confused by the narrative, bemused by his obsession with its being exceptional but at times charmed by his songs and his presence.

The show needs much rewriting and some rigorous direction. It is too loose and confusing. The songs often sound the same and feel as if they are casual travel journal entries put to music.

The day begins with his inappropriate sexual feelings toward a 'skinny Brit'  who shared his accommodation. He sings of his desire to overcome this drug-induced lust. "If only I were different - normal."

His rush to escape his lusty thoughts take shim to a creek where he encounters a dark-skinned robed boy wearing eye liner. The boy says, "Bent?" Is he asking whether Grant is gay or stoned? He escapes only to find himself pursued.

The stories continue. His paranoia increases. He tries to ton find friends. He feels persecuted, ogled by five black angels - or are they Indian workmen?  Finally, he reaches a beach and a woman selling shells. Somehow, she engages him and calms his spirit.

It is a short, simple show that relies on Grant's personality to carry it rather than the quality of the writing.

By Kate Herbert

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