Me & Mr Jones – The Midsumma Remix reunites married musical couple Melissa Langton (The Fabulous Singlettes) and Mark Jones (The Beautiful Losers) on stage. The Midsumma festival programme describes these stalwart performers as “limping out of semi-retirement” for a pair of shows aimed at eccentrically touring the popular music of the 1970s. The performers are much more agile than their self-mocking admits, in a show more memorable than much of that diverse, sometimes cringe-worthy era.
Midsumma seems to have encouraged the Clocktower Centre to show some new colours for the show. Patrons were seated cabaret-style backstage of the main theatre, enabling the trappings of wine bottles and cheese plates. The intimate setting gave the performers licence to divulge some of their musical passions and showcase some novel arrangements.
From a rocking opening with the Skyhooks classic Living in the 70’s, we proceeded on quirky tour of the era. Offerings ranged from Sister Janet Mead’s The Lord’s Prayer to Big Balls by AC/DC given a classically formal treatment.
At some point, punters might wonder why this show is in Midsumma. The answer might lie in Jones’ claim that “No-one was gay in the 1970s”. Looking back at performers such as at Liberace now, it seems people had a great capacity for self-delusion. There is some very suitable content, such as Langton’s outstanding performance of Charles Aznavour’s What Makes a Man a Man, delivered with pain and resignation.
Also appropriately, the arrangements of many songs are unafraid to be different, bringing lyrics to the fore that might have somewhat receded into their familiar original form. In this regard, Jones’ take on Imagine is a highlight.
1970s pop-culture touchstones also get some ribbing, and a mirror ball gets its time in the spotlight, despite Jones’ contempt. This is just one instance of Jones’ droll stage persona, which rails against some of Langton’s musical selections to comedic effect. The pair successfully milk the frictions between partners for laughs, as seen in a snappy medley where Langton expresses her love for Hugh Jackman.
Across all the genres and tempos visited, Jones and Langton show mastery of their craft. They deliver performances that are textured and thoughtful, in stark contrast to so much of the belting out of tunes around these days.
Me and Mr Jones is easy-going fun performed with style. While it would have been impossible to survey much of the 70s, a visit to Glam and David Bowie would have seemed appropriate. Also, I don’t know how you could have a proper 70s show without burnt orange or macramé. Still, Me & Mr Jones is too good to have so few dates, and hopefully – like a sample from a funky James Brown tune – it will pop up somewhere in the near future.
If you can’t wait for a remount, maybe the next best thing will be to see Mr Jones in Dolly Diamond and Mark Jones: Alive and Intimate at The Clocktower Centre on Saturday 6 February with a Cinzano!
Me & Mr Jones – The Midsumma Remix
The Clocktower Centre, 750 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds
Performance: Saturday 30 January 2016 – 7.00pm
For more information, visit: www.clocktowercentre.com.au for details.
Image: Melissa Langton and Mark Jones (supplied)
Review: Jason Whyte