Hit Me!, Leicester Square Theatre, London


What a waste, what a waste (and I do mind)

Even dead, Ian Dury keeps making trouble. Hit Me! (as in "with your rhythm stick") hit the news before its West End opening when its star at the Edinburgh Festival, and in a subsequent fringe run last year, left amid claims that he had done so because of the involvement of Chris Langham, a convicted sex offender.

The new Dury, Adrian Schiller, does a more than plausible imitation – there's the slender frame, the alternately smooth and pugnacious manner, the raspy, laid-back voice, like the Big Bad Wolf on Quaaludes, and the mocking, detached style of performance (in one number, he chews gum while he sings).

But, now at double the length that it was in Edinburgh, the show has not added depth to its lightweight, bloke-ish survey of Dury's life. In matching his rebellious lyrics with tales of reckless behaviour, it instead presents a cold, crude picture of one of our most endearing anarchists.

Jeff Merrifield, the writer and director, pairs Dury with Spider Rowe (Josh Darcy), the incompetent burglar who became Dury's tour manager and bodyguard. We hear from Dury about his childhood with a genteel mother and aunts, the polio that crippled one arm and leg (Schiller wears a leg brace and a black glove with his pearly-king coat or checked fedora).

The illness sent Dury to an institution that he says was part school, part hospital, and all prison, which sounds little different from the actual prison where Rowe lost teeth and broke ribs defending himself. Their emotions recollected in hostility, the two gleefully recount one incident after another in which Dury gets drunk and throws food or a punch, or makes a woman cry. But the stories are not amusing or revelatory – we could be listening to any two middle-aged men in a pub chuckling at what Rowe calls "rascal behaviour" and that anyone else would call a nuisance.

Merrifield, whose dialogue has the same short noun or present participle in practically every line, has no interest in Dury's sensitive side, which, rather than the thuggish one, was responsible for his lyrics.

There is no mention of Dury's talent as a painter, no more than a namecheck for his two wives, and almost nothing about his many other women ("I've never had a problem with going up to somebody and asking for a shag – obviously, politely"). The sober Dury, impish and courtly, is hardly visible here, nor is the ironist. The Dury we see here would have celebrated, rather than sent up, Billericay Dickie and his back-seat amours with the likes of Nina, the "seasoned-up hyena." A grotesquely unfunny take-off of a female TV presenter leaves one feeling that Merrifield's attitude toward women is not just skittish but misogynistic.

Filled with a grid of blue and green lights, old LPs, and empty bottles, the depressing stage is flanked by small screens that are hardly used at all. They come to life only to illustrate the crashingly insensitive International Year of Disabled Persons (1981), which Dury countered with a song in which he proclaimed, "I'm Spasticus Autisticus... I wiggle when I piddle/ 'Cos my middle is a riddle... I dribble when I nibble/ And I quibble when I scribble." The BBC banned it but, Dury says, "The spastics loved it!"

Though it's certainly authentic for the recorded musical accompaniment to drown out Schiller's voice, rock'n'roll realism might have been altered a bit, considering that we're told several times of Dury's brilliance as a lyricist.

It might also be a good idea to keep the bar at the rear of the auditorium open during the show – not only as a gesture to the music hall, whose influence can be heard in Dury's cheeky songs, but also to provide some alcoholic benevolence to counter the cheerlessness onstage.

The man who, with "sex and drugs and rock'n'roll," gave England a triad to stand proudly beside the Viennese "wine, women, and song" deserves better than this "tribute" that, in removing the qualities that separated him from his small-minded admirers, drags him down to their level, the better to embrace him.

www.leicestersquaretheatre.com, 0844 847 2475. To 14 February



Dermot O'Leary attends the X Factor Wembley Arena auditions at Wembley on August 1, 2014 in London, England.


Arts and Entertainment
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss