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The Other Half @ Birmingham Repertory Theatre - Review

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by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
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Crime writer and country duo unite for dramatic performance
The Other Half is a show of two halves. Pre-interval, crime novelist, actor and sometime comedian Mark Billingham reads his story, The Other Half, accompanied by musical interludes from Birmingham country duo My Darling Clementine whose music has inspired the tale.

After the interval My Darling Clementine returned to the stage to perform a set of songs that would have found favour with the country music-loving Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, the character created by Billingham in his series of crime novels.

The Other Half, Mark Billingham, My Darling Clementine
Crime writer: Mark Billingham

The evening begins with the novelist stage right, recalling the story of Marcia, a former Vegas showgirl, now a waitress in a Memphis bar. Through her we meet the characters that frequent the establishment and begin to uncover their stories. Some of their back stories are fleshed out in the songs performed by husband and wife Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish, aka My Darling Clementine.

So we get to know the lonely couple Paul and Ruby, barfly Ray and mysterious Donna, waitress Chrissie and George and Alison who Marcia wrongly believed were part of a threesome.

Billingham's writing is crisp and precise, his narration easy on the ear. My Darling Clementine's music is heartbreak Americana with a silver lining.

The Other Half, Mark Billingham, My Darling Clementine
In the spotlight: My Darling Clementine on stage at Birmingham Rep

Post-interval Billingham explains that the project began when he included in his latest novel a list of DI Thorne's favourite songs, with My Darling Clementine the only contemporary act featured. The duo contacted the writer and the idea of The Other Half was hatched.

With the spotlight turned on the musicians in the second half Michael and Lou loosened up and presented a series of bittersweet country songs ranging from mournful to heartbreaking! Lou even warned that Ashes, Flowers and Dust, about the death of her father and Michael's mother, was seriously sad. And she was right.

During the set the audience seemed really quiet, Lou observed. This could have been the result of performing for a theatre audience, rather than a music crowd. Nevertheless, the two musicians bantered among themselves like the old married couple they are!

The Other Half, Mark Billingham, My Darling Clementine
Duet: Mark Billingham joins My Darling Clementine on stage at the Birmingham Rep

Things lightened up when Mark Billingham returned to the stage to duet on Ray Price's Heartaches By The Number. And the final song, Not A Song For Christmas, about the birth of the couple's 'Miracle Baby', left the audience with the necessary feelgood factor.

This was a good theatrical/ music experiment and certainly worth catching when it tours next year.

The Other Half can be seen at The Islington in London on November 11. On November 14 it plays the Crossing Border Festival in The Hague with rock star Graham Parker replacing Mark Billingham.
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Why? The honkiest-tonkiest evening of your life
When: November 11, 2014
Phone: 0207 684 1577 (The Islington)
Where: The Islington, London (Nov 11); Crossing Border Festival, The Hague (Nov 14)
Cost: 16.55
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