Des de Moor
Press Cuttings: Darkness and Disgrace

What's On in London 24 January 2001
Photo: Theo Cohen

Darkness and Disgrace

Rosemary Branch Theatre

If you thought that David Bowie was all about pretentious gobbledygook lyrics, extravagant make-up and wacky costumes, prepare to be disabused. Des De Moor's fascinating look at one of the most talented British performers of the last four decades begins slowly but builds brilliantly, providing new insights at every turn.

De Moor and his accomplice, Russell Churney (master of deadpan and a helluva piano player to boot), hit the stage in matching dark suits -- about as far from the sum of Bowie's finery as it's possible to go. This is obviously a deliberate ploy -- an attempt to strip things down literally and metaphorically -- while at the same time pointing up Bowie's (or should that be 'Jones", as he then was) debt to Mod.

De Moor at first appears a little nervous but once his superbly versatile tenor has warmed up a little you can't help but admire his intelligent and moving readings of the songs. He isn't actually aided by some show-and-tell direction from Barb Jungr, herself a mistress of chanson. When a song talks of "pacing a room", for example, De Moor obediently paces the room... That said Jungr has kept things tight and generally atmospher ic, and there's some simple but effective lighting by Chris Umney.

If you go expecting 'Rebel, Rebel' and 'Starman' or even 'Dancing In The Streets', God help us, you will be disappointed. If you want a quirky look at Bowie's bisexuality, his attitudes to insanity (he had an institutionalised half brother) and the effects of a suburban London upbringing, you've come to the right place.

In relation to the latter Churney delivers the funniest line of the night when quoting Dave from an ancient Melody Maker on setting up an Arts Lab above a pub -- "I never knew there were so many sitar players in Beckenham..." Other highlights include a version of 'The Bewlay Brothers' with both performers on acoustic guitars. De Moor introduces this one by pondering on who the siblings were. Were they more Grace or Warner Bros? Or perhaps The Krays... but as the players work through the song's arcane beauty they sound just like The Everlys. This serves to make the lasting point that underneath all the showmanship and shape-shifting Bowie wrote some damn fine numbers.


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