[Review] Mixtape: Mega Mix @ The Dun Cow Sunderland

REVIEW: Ryan Watson

February 10th 2017

I’ve written this about this before on the Juice Festival blog, but the cleverest thing about Mixtape is the way that in this day and age where people supposedly don’t want to engage with the theatre, it tricks you into watching and listening intently and hanging on to every word of the series of short and hilarious sketches that make up the show.

It works so well because it pits the audience against each other. Mixtape is a pub quiz, each sketch can only use the words of a given song and the audience has to guess which song the sketch is based on. So for example, there’s a sketch that goes on about a wrecking ball that’s very clearly based on the Miley Cyrus song of the same name. Each show is based on a specific era/genre of music such as 80’s, 90’s or boybands vs girlbands. This particular show was a Megamix, drawing on all those eras/genres. Whichever team gets the most points wins ‘The Golden Mixtape’.

It makes you want to pay attention to everything; it makes you not want to miss a single word.  There’s something about Music that makes you want to prove you know more than other people, particularly when – as is the case with many of the songs used in Mixtape – those songs are now a few decades old.

One experience I have often, that I’m sure must be somewhat universal is being told about how great ‘the older songs’ are by my parents as if I’ve never heard them, only to explain that it’s 2017 and its actually pretty easy to listen to music from basically all of recorded musical history and yes Mum I do quite like that song (but am apparently to insecure about my Music taste to name an actual song). It makes you feel clever or educated. Maybe it’s even allowing me to feel like I’m not one of these ‘ignorant young people that don’t care about anyone but themselves’ that I’ve been told about from a million different directions (though I want to make it clear my Mum would never suggest that).  There’s something in being able to identify a song that feels like you’re expressing yourself because Music taste is so tied into identity.

So by that logic, Mixtape isn’t just a piece of theatre where the writers, cast and crew are given a chance to express themselves, because of the link between Music and identity, Mixtape allows the audience a chance to feel as if they are expressing themselves too.

This particular show I think also really benefitted from being part of Sunderland Stages, which is of course all about taking live performance into unusual and different spaces. The show took place in a crowded upstairs performance room at a pub called The Dun Cow, which gave the show a totally different feel to the last time I saw Mixtape at Live Theatre on the main stage.

Whilst the show at Live Theatre did feel a like it had a sense of scale, I feel like the pub quiz element of the show is really well suited to taking place in a crowded room where you’re worried about spilling your drink on someone and don’t quite have the legroom you wish you did. It feels a lot more intimate and it allows certain sketches that require audience participation – such as one where they need a member of the audience to play an ironing board – to feel a lot more natural and almost improvised (though I know it wasn’t because that sketch was at both shows I’ve seen) because they’re just pointing at someone sitting nearby and asking them to do it, rather than stopping the show and staring out from the stage to see who is willing.

If I were a good reviewer, I’d be able to really talk about some of the individual sketches that really stood out to me, having taken detailed notes on each one so I could write in depth about them. But instead I let the show sweep me away and my memory of which songs match up with which sketches is a little bit hazy. What’s not hazy is how great the cast are at being funny and really drawing the humour out of simple lines. Sometimes it’s through repeating lines that sort of resemble a memorable line from the song they’re doing, sometimes it’s from the way they exaggerate accents and sometimes it’s because they’re just saying nonsense words in a really funny way.

I think it’s pretty clear I really enjoyed the show. It’s genuinely a great show that allows you to feel like you’re participating and expressing yourself in some way whilst also watching some really clever pieces of writing and fantastic performances. It’s the second time I’ve seen the megamix show and I enjoyed it just as much this time as the last. I’m really hoping I get a chance to see one of the shows in a couple of weeks time where  they’ll be focusing on a particular era/genre of music.

Also…I did terribly on the quiz by the way. 21/36. You gotta do better Ryan.

Mixtape have a number of shows coming up, more info avaliable on their blog.

(Featured Image found on Mixtape’s blog)

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