The Arches, Glasgow Four stars There must be few things more dispiriting for a band if no-one turns out to see them play. But what if the band themselves don't turn up, leaving just the possibly deluded singer to bare his soul? No, this isn't the latest exercise in social engineering by The Fall's Mark E Smith, but is the premise of Bristol-based performer Sam Halmarack's hour-long dissection of pop mythology in miniature. There is no rise or fall here, only the bitter-sweet taste of never making it to cling to for comfort. Somehow, however, by getting the audience to join in on rudimentary glockenspiel, drums and keyboards as instructed by a home-made rehearsal video, Halmarack snatches triumph from adversity in a way that gives the Arches chair-stripped studio theatre the power of a stadium. On one level, surrounded by an array of space-age silver instruments, Halmarack comes over like an electro-pop John Shuttleworth. Yet, in his gold track-suit top and pink day-glo headband, the indomitable spirit and thick-skinned determination against all the odds of Halmarack's character might also be channelling the spirit of Lawrence, the unsung genius behind Felt, Denim and Go-Kart Mozart, whose similar craving for fame and fortune has made him an accidental icon. It could happen too for Halmarack, who, by breaking the fourth wall from the off, taps into the audience's need to participate rather than be kept in the dark as passive spectators. In his small, vulnerable but utterly life-affirming way, Halmarack is telling us something about faith, self-belief and how anything is possible. As for the missing Miserablites, who needs them? In Halmarack's world, at least, we're all Miserablites now.
The Herald, April 7th 2014 ends