Des de Moor
Press Cuttings: Darkness and Disgrace

BowieNet News (official David Bowie website) 23 January 2001
Russell Churney (left) and Des de Moor get dark and disgraceful
Photo: Total Blam Blam


singing old songs we loved...

If you can get along to 'Darkness and Disgrace' (see 01/17/01 NEWS: BOWIE GETS THE CABARET TREATMENT IN LONDON) before the last show on Sunday the 28th, then don't hesitate, it really is a very clever and most entertaining piece. "A musical cabaret from the songs of David Bowie", 'Darkness and Disgrace' is a touching performance that claims to be about songs and "how a good song can be a powerful thing, living in the imagination in ways that the songwriter may never have foreseen".

There really are some inspired musical moments in the piece such as the marriage of 'Tired Of My Life' and 'It's No Game', and pretty well all of the arrangements, despite their sparseness (most are performed using only piano and voice and occasionally guitar) prove how magical these songs truly are. But if you're expecting a tribute band, then don't go. Des de Moor never attempts to look or sound like David Bowie, and 'Darkness and Disgrace' is all the better for that. Without these distractions the focus on the songs themselves is even sharper.

The dialogue is also a treat. From Mr de Moor's first sighting of the 'Starman' on Top Of The Pops, via an excerpt from '1984' that brilliantly introduces a stunning performance of 'We Are The Dead', through to pianist Russell Churney's straight reading, concerning mental illness, from David's infamous Playboy interview of 1975. It's clear that both of these men were deeply affected by David Bowie and his music in their youth and that they still feel he writes meaningful songs today, this is borne out by their performance of 'I Have Not Been to Oxford Town'.

I do intend to post one of the songs from 'Darkness and Disgrace' as a stream, along with an interview with Des and Russell in the very near future, but in the meantime here is an excellent review by BowieNetter Dick Mac, accompanied by a couple of shots I took on the night.

Total Blam Blam - (European Correspondent)

'Darkness and Disgrace' - A review by Dick Mac

Anne and I ventured North of London for the first time tonight...to The Rosemary Branch, a free house and theatre on the other side of the borough, which, according to its brochure "...first appears on Hole's 1594 plan of Finsbury Fields as an alehouse used by archers near the Shoreditch boundary..."

The Rosemary Branch Theatre is currently showing "Darkness and Disgrace, a Musical Cabaret from the Songs of David Bowie," starring Des DeMoor, as the chansonnier, and Russell Churney, as pianist.

The small theatre was sparsely set for this two-man show which started with DeMoor sitting on a chair reciting "Future Legend," the eerie opening to Bowie's Diamond Dogs album. "Future Legend" is a post-beat pledge of post-apocalyptic allegiance to all that is decorative and shimmering, rife with canine sensuality and sexual tension, spoken over a proto-punk rendition of Richard Rodgers' "Bewitched." Who knew that two men with a piano and a couple of guitars could elicit Bowie's spirit with such simplicity. What followed made me want to giggle (which I later learned the actors would have enjoyed) as DeMoor launched into a cabaret version of the song "Diamond Dogs"! I've never heard the line "with your silicone hump and your ten-inch stump" delivered with such style!

The audience warmed-up when DeMoor spoke about how the show came into being and his own introduction to the music of David Bowie. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear other men of my generation tell their story of stumbling on David Bowie's show of bisexual transgender glamour and chic, because they tell MY story. Does every 40ish white guy Bowie fan have the SAME story?

DeMoor and Churney proceed to run through an amalgamation of Bowie non-hits from as far back as 1966's "The London Boys" and as recent as 1995's "I Have Not Been To Oxford Town."

Most poignant, is that at various intervals, the players speak to and about Bowie's fascination and personal experiences with the marginalization of the mentally ill and society's phobia surrounding mental illness. Churney quoted (free of sarcasm or gratuitous accent) an excerpt from Bowie's 1975 Playboy interview with Cameron Crowe where the rock god discusses his familiarity with mental illness. The medley of "All The Madmen" and "Buddha of Surburbia" became a housewide celebration of mental illness when DeMoor got the audience to clap along and sing 'Zane, Zane, Zane. Ouvre le Chien.' The duo's melding of these two songs is brilliant, and any die-hard Bowie fan would be familiar with the connection.

Their stunningly creepy version of "Scream Like A Baby," which might be the best song ever written about medication and marginalization, gave me chills! The song "I Have Not Been To Oxford Town" was performed with the silouhette of prison bars surrounding the singer and again succeeded at eliciting sympathy about institutionalization.

"Please Mr. Gravedigger," released in 1967, was treated to a bit of role-playing, that lightened the creepy, murderous storyline of the song.

I do not mean to imply that "Darkness and Disgrace" is a flag waving demonstration to unveil the horrors of institutionalizaiton! Hardly! There was a dark side mixed in with all this fun!

A snippet from George Orwell's "1984," which was clearly the inspiring text for Bowie's "We Are The Dead," was read by both performers before offering the song. Again, the juxtaposition of a line like "I love you in your fuck-me-pumps and your nimble dress that trails" on a stark cabaret piano made my appreciation of Bowie's lyrical versatility run deeper!

Though the show is filled with songs that real Bowie fans would appreciate, not every audience member would be familiar with all of the cuts. So, as a treat, the show's encore is "Life On Mars" which even a Bowie neophyte knows enough to hum-along.

Other songs included in the two-act, 90-minute show include (chronologically, but not in order of performance) "Saviour Machine," "Width Of A Circle," "The Bewlay Brothers," "Lady Stardust," "Time" (a song that seems written for cabaret performance), "Sons Of The Silent Age" (performed quite differently than Peter Frampton), and "It's No Game."

I cannot say enough about this show. Every Bowie fan of any stripe in the London area, and those Bowie fans with the wherewithal to get themselves to London by 28 January, should take in this show.

After the show, we had the good luck to enjoy a drink with the performers who are charming, accessible, and enthusiastic. DeMoor and Churney happily shared their thoughts about Bowie's music, the story of building the show, and their creative interests. The honour of meeting the cast was ours because we had the good fortune of meeting the charming Blammo and Susan from BowieNet -- true stars in their own right -- who happily spent the last part of the evening talking music and politics and Bowie!

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