Plenty of stories exist in rock music folklore about the people who made it big. What about the stories of those who came so close but, through a strong cocktail of bad luck and drunken decisions, didn’t? This autobiographical performance by Gypsy Lee Pistolero (AKA Lee Mark-Jones) fits such erratic living well. It is a bit patchy and all over the place, with a couple of stumbling blocks, but manages to shout out a message of inspiration clearly enough for it to be worth the trouble.
Dressed in a shiny one-piece and accompanied by Ziggy Stardust himself, Mark-Jones fills the audience in on his musical journey of ups and downs. Throughout this trip down memory lane (or what’s left of it), he includes his personal struggles and the ruthless nature of the music business that help A Rock’n’Roll Suicide! to feel like more than a dry retelling of events. His charm, bluntness and theatricality help to carry the show throughout its 45 minute running time, with some good humour to stop things getting too heavy.
Mark-Jones is capable of riding through some of the show’s rougher patches. It feels very jumpy, leaping from more stylised moments to sombre reflections before jumping back on the tour bus. It is in keeping with the craziness of the story Mark-Jones is trying to tell, but fitting so much into such a short show means that it is easy to get lost. He also sings, which starts a bit shakily but grows to the point where you can hear why he came so close to being a big time rock star. Some of the jokes, band names and references are also lost on a diverse crowd who don’t necessarily know as much about British music as he does. The end result is a ropey affair, with more than a few moments not quite having the desired impression.
It is great however, to see independent theatre taking ambitious risks like this. With a relatively simple set up, Mark-Jones experiments with multimedia and sets that look amazing without proving a distraction. When you throw in a banging soundtrack, lavish storytelling and a tale worth telling, A Rock’n’Roll Suicide! is a diary of dreams, tragedy and comedic reflection. It is inconsistent and flawed, but then so are most rock stars.