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A Beautiful Way To Be Crazy by Genevieve Carver and The Unsung

There’s a lot packed into this hour-long show, but it doesn’t feel overloaded or rushed, and proceeds at a steady pace. Eschewing the trend in recent years of longitudinal stories being told by way of flitting about forwards and backwards between the decades, Genevieve Carver and The Unsung (musicians Tim Knowles, Brian Bestall and Ruth Nicholson) go for telling a story in forward chronological order. Guess what? It works, and it works brilliantly. A semi-autobiographical piece of theatre, Carver begins with her childhood aspirations and goes on to adulthood realities. There doesn’t appear to be a definitive moment at which she crosses over from one to the other, but rather a gradual shift as she picks up more knowledge and insight over the years.
A Beautiful Way To Be Crazy

It was interesting to hear remarks from women and non-binary people in the music industry – musicians, technicians, sound engineers, you name it. Hearing their perspectives was something of an eye-opener, particularly when they spoke of a relative lack of female role models, with most people in the industry being men. The male-dominated environment begins as far back as school days, which doesn’t quite tally with my own experience: I don’t think I ever had a male music teacher, even at an all-boys secondary, and most people I knew in bands and choral societies were female. The lads, on the whole, seemed more interested in athletic prowess and televised sporting fixtures, and even those that were very much into music preferred to attend gigs rather than perform.

With such a broad range of narrative devices and music styles, one might be forgiven that this is one of those shows that needs to rein it in a bit, that it could explore fewer topics in greater depth rather than lots of subject areas but only briefly, that less is more. But in the end, going from poetry heavily accompanied by music to a reading out, without any accompaniment at all, a teenager’s diary entry (Carver’s own, I hasten to add, before anyone thinks she’s done that forbidden thing of publicising someone else’s innermost thoughts) gives the show an authentic feel. In other words, if it’s a bit messy and unpredictable, then so is life.

Talk of school bullying is relatable to a lot of people, whether they have ever had any involvement in the music industry. The show is also jargon-free, focusing on the struggles and challenges faced by music practitioners rather than the technicalities. Without being in any way preachy, it provides plenty of food for thought. It is for members of the audience to draw out whatever parallels they choose between, for instance, outright misogyny in pop music lyrics and similar attitudes still held elsewhere in society.

It is not, perhaps unsurprisingly, not entirely comfortable viewing. But it’s also highly compelling and puts people whose stories aren’t heard often enough centre stage.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

A Beautiful Way To Be Crazy was in the middle of a nationwide tour before it was sadly cut short in early 2020. This broadcast has been specially recorded to enjoy from home.

Based on interviews conducted with female and non-binary practitioners across the music industry, A Beautiful Way to be Crazy is a tale of growing up and finding a voice. Weaving together spoken word poetry, storytelling, live music, audio clips from the interviews, and some genuine teenage diary entries, award-winning poet Genevieve Carver and her multi-instrumental live band (Tim Knowles, Brian Bestall and Ruth Nicholson) explore what it means to be a girl in the business of music – with a little help from Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Delia Derbyshire. Covering themes of confidence, female working relationships, toxic masculinity and mental health, to a soundtrack ranging from soul to electronica, classical and pop.

A BEAUTIFUL WAY TO BE CRAZY @ The Cockpit
Dates: On-Demand 11th Jan – 7th Feb 2021
https://www.thecockpit.org.uk/
Tickets: £5

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