REVIEW: Village of the Fringe rocks past, present and future

“It’s all backwards causality. Cyclical time. The past is the future. The present is now. The future is the past.”

That’s how Rocco Hercules Somershire – the greatest rock musician in the greatest British rock band in the world – explains how The Saints of British Rock could meet Merlin the magician, who gave them their divine mission to save the world with rock ‘n’ roll; and King Arthur, “the greatest king of London,” have his way with Arthur’s wife and blame it on Lancelot, “because he’s French.”

At the Cook County Saloon (Venue 26) during Village of the Fringed until Aug. 26, this musical comedy borrows heavily from Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap with shades of Monty Python’s Flying Circus thrown in. You’ll quickly notice that despite their high-blown mystical, pseudo-intellectual rhetoric about universal brotherhood, these musicians are self-absorbed, adolescent louts who scream at their servants, just want to have “loads and loads” of sex, take “loads and loads” of drugs and who punch each other in the face as a greeting. They are not cultured, sophisticated, internationally travelled rock superstars.

Brought to you by producers of This Is Cancer, Jake’s Gift, One Man Star Wars, and One Man Lord Of The Rings – all previous Fringe hits – The Saints of British rock is a bit a one-note joke, but the show comes across pretty well because it’s short, has energetic performers, a good band, and is backed up by expensive production – photo montages and film clips, which run on two giant video screens on either side of the stage. It plays like a television documentary. An offstage interviewer quizzes the two main band members about their career like the voice of God. These clips are both sophisticated and funny in their own right. One sees the band members fighting sword-against-guitar in a gorgeous snowy landscape; another contains an animated dragon interacting with the performers, yet another has striking, colourful footage of a tiger that becomes the cause of the band’s demise, and still another shows Merlin amid mystic lighting effects as a goofy hand puppet.

The music, too, keeps the production moving and energized. There are a couple of memorable songs, particularly one where Somershire sings about his regrets. The chorus “but I forgot to have sex with you in the morning” had the audience laughing out loud. Another about King Arthur, who, “fought a war with Julius Caesar and together with Jesus created a kingdom,” is equally enjoyable in its nonsensical garbling of history.

There are minor nit-picks, like the fact the music verges more on hard-rock and metal rather than progressive British rock. Hey, you could say that Jimi Hendrix and Cream invented what became metal anyway. It’s all backwards causality!

That might also explain Stonehenge.

More Rock in the Village:

Homewrecker Hot Dogs: The Hillbilly Hip-Hopera

The Greatest Guitarist in the World – A fantasy tag team guitar battle between Hendrix, Clapton and Page vs. Django, Atkins and Breau, so great that only last names will do.

Man vs. Time and Dreamonia (Venue 1) – Amazing dancers rock the tango.

Middleton, A Folk Musical (Venue 5) – Maritime merriment, jigs and reels.

Homewrecker Hot Dogs – the Hillbilly Hip-Hopera (Venue 8) – To name it is to know it.

Apocalypse Kow: Enemies of Music (Venue 13) – Musical comedy the vein of the Arrogant Worms or Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.

The Be Arthurs Originals (Venue 35) – Everyone’s favourite ukulele cover band takes a crack at playing their own tunes.

The Rat Pack Revue (Venue 47) – Frank, Dean, Sammy and those other two guys bring a slice of olde Vegas to the Fringe.

Il Duo: Because the World Needs More Tenors (outdoor) – Parody of Il Divo, but they can really sing.