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John Cooper Clarke

When John Cooper Clarke declaimed an epigrammatic “Why struggle?” at
the opening of his final late-night 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe show
in his trademark deadpan northern twang, the statement was a typically
double-edged mix of the philosophical and the practical. While the
be-suited and be-shaded bard of Salford’s proclamation smacked of
existential enquiry, in actual fact the motor-mouthed stick-insect was
merely moving a table closer to the microphone in order to rest his bag
full of verses on top and within reach.

What follows is a rapid-fire barrage of rhyming vignettes that map out
life’s everyday absurdities with a decidedly surrealist vision. Hire
cars, not so wedded bliss with a bug-eyed extra-terrestrial and a
verbal picture postcard on the salubrious delights of Greater
Manchester’s satellite suburbs are all in the mix, each one punctuated
with the driest of one-liners that rounds Cooper Clarke’s act up into
the deadliest of routines. All this and slumland grimoir ‘Beasley
Street’, a ‘Wasteland’ for the Thatcher generation that’s followed by
its regenerated sequel, the pithy ‘Beasley Boulevard’. Set in the
interior expanse of the inflatable upside down cow that is the
Underbelly’s Udderbelly space, the effect falls somewhere between
high-concept Dadaist cabaret and chicken-in-a-basket top light
entertainment for grown-ups.

Five months on, and Clarkey’s back, this time in the more bijou
subterranean setting of Glasgow’s Arches space to continue a public
rehabilitation that has seen him championed by the Arctic Monkeys,
while a decade back Christopher Eccleston recited the whole of
‘Evidently Chickentown in Danny Boyle’s TV movie, ‘Strumpet.’ Cooper
Clarke is resolutely pragmatic about such praise.

“It’s good to have Dr Who on your side” he says, clearly having missed
the last two Time lords. “It opens up as whole new fanbase among the
sci-fi fraternity.”

John Cooper Clarke, The Arches, Glasgow, January 29th

The List, January 2011

ends

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