-by Dylan Slater
(Photo credit: Adam Thomas)
The Money Bin
The Chronic-Ills of Robert Zimmerman, AKA Bob Dylan (A Lie): A Theatrical Talking Blues & Glissendorf had a bit to live up to, following Max Barker’s well-received performance to a nearly over-full Money Bin last Sunday. However director Lucinda Gleeson and company had nothing to worry about, with the Benito Di Fonzo-penned retelling of cultural icon Bob Dylan’s life going down an absolute treat.
Matt Ralph plays the elusive title character and, despite looking quite unlike Bob Dylan even while donning his iconic wayfarers, waistcoat, and “boots of Spanish leather”, he manages to embody the musician’s charismatic presence well. Although his accent was a little shaky to begin with, Ralph warmed into the singer’s nasal drawl and emulated the singer’s rhythm and register almost seamlessly.
While Ralph was fantastic as the enigmatic Dylan, parts of the show were stolen by the very talented Andrew Henry who played a large cast of supporting characters including Johnny Cash, a “Hipster Yiddish” Abraham Lincoln as a talk show host (possibly a reference to Dylan’s father, named Abram), a comically Canadian Robbie Robertson, and an hilarious John Lennon, complete with trademark sunglasses.
Lenore Munro also provided a number of well-performed cameos and supporting characters, including Dylan’s wives Sarah and Carolyn, Bono as a leprechaun, and an impressive stint as Joan Baez complete with operatic vibrato.
Interestingly, the show does not feature much of Dylan’s original work and most references to his songs come in the form of quoted titles and lyrics in dialogue. Although this may disappoint the few who come expecting to sing along to Blowin’ in the Wind or Like a Rolling Stone, it allows the performance to be clever in its tribute and saves it from becoming a trite Dylan cover act. Musical director and multi-instrumentalist Simon Rippingale does well to follow Dylan’s career from 60s folk, folk-rock, country, and evangelical, through to his latest incarnations with relative ease despite never playing a true Dylan ‘hit’.
While fantastically written, strongly directed, and well-performed, The Chronic-Ills of Robert Zimmerman is, on the whole, a show for fans. For those without a deep knowledge of Dylan canon (and apocrypha) many of the subtler jokes and references will be little more than strange turns of phrase and nonsense, and the show seems to rely heavily on the expectation that those in attendance are Bob Dylan aficionados.
However, despite perhaps being partially lost on the uninitiated, The Chronic-Ills of Robert Zimmerman is a quirky, clever, and irreverent homage that holds nothing as sacred or untouchable, and one can’t help but feel that the man himself would approve. Or not.
Born and raised in Canberra, Dylan Slater always had two passions; writing and music. He pursued both throughout his schooling and was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for Outstanding Achievement in the Performance Arts for his grades in music, and became a published author in the 2009 Lit Links creative writing anthology. Dylan recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Canberra, majoring in Journalism, Creative Writing, and Sociology. Dylan still pursues his passions, regularly contributing to Canberra based music review website Dirtygal.co and playing music whenever and wherever he can. His favourite book is Catch-22 and his favourite album is Disintegration.