SharpWire are a combination of the writer and composer Pete M Wyer and the multi-talented performer Matthew Sharp. The show that they have currently at the Riverside studios opened the Tête á Tête opera festival and frankly was as inspired a piece of absurdist, sustained, artful whimsy as anybody is likely to see in long time.
At commencement the audience is each given a paper bag containing a boiled sweet, a pen, a small plastic pop out cake decoration stating 'congratulations', a smaller plastic fish and a balloon – un-expanded. You reviewer wondered momentarily if there was going to audience participation a la Rocky Horror Show, but thankfully the gifts were pointless.
The goggles of the title we learnt were a portal into Takrilakastan, a greenish dimension that co-exists in the space taken up in our world by the heat-sozzled backwater of La Lavandou in Southern France.
Bought from a turbaned lunatic in the weekly market they give access to a world of man-eating lizard dogs, turtle-headed guards, massive fortifications and a tiny resistance. Not to mention fleets of dwarves carrying large cartoon bombs that tick loudly.
Our unnamed cellist hero it transpires must descend into the chaos of Takrilakistan to rescue his neighbour Johnny who has been abducted by a black camel and is now toiling automaton-like on the infernal machine, which is threatening our world with a series of 50 satellites designed to crush individuality and spirit from the human race. And he must do it fast.
Matt Sharp gave a virtuoso performance as the narrator, French waiter (from central casting), transvestite cabaret artiste, Dulang Dulang the gimlet-eyed, turbaned store holder, murderous turtle men and other assorted characters. Oh yes and he played the cello, grimaced and sang his way through the performance with joyful élan. The writing of both music and libretto (can this be described as a libretto?) was light and dark in turns and created the aural soundscape that finger-fitted the performance.
As a one man show this was a revelation and enormously English, the images, goonish in their flights of fancy, burnt impressions on the minds eye as the tortuous story wended its way through the evening.
The show will no doubt travel. If it does so near where you live, screw up your courage and let SharpWire take you to the land of Takrilakistan.