A Riff on Keef: The Human Myth | GriffinLeft – Terry Serio. Photo – Ross Waldron

Hopefully, time is on your side to get caught in the crossfire hurricane of A Riff on Keef: The Human Myth, Benito Di Fonzo’s loose swinging jam on the now venerable wild man of rock, Keith Richards.

The truth, like the man, is out there, but the mantle of myth, layered over decades, fudges flesh with fable. Di Fonzo has fashioned a palimpsest biograph that spans seventy years taking useful information to fire his imagination and succeeded with a great deal of theatrical satisfaction.

A Riff on Keef: The Human Myth is the third in a trilogy of plays written by Di Fonzo and directed by Lucinda Gleeson, the preceding plays focusing on Bob Dylan and Lenny Bruce. The collaboration between writer and director is a winning one, working on the same page to create the alchemy to stage. Gleeson picks up on the riff motif and phrases the piece with an improv feel, with a pace that's tight but relaxed. 

Terry Serio looks the real deal, the hair and scarf giving him an uncanny visual resemblance. With the double punch delivery of terrific characterisation and musical performance, Serio seriously nails Keef, endowing an enigmatic energy to the cheeky, worldly-wise survivor of the traps laid for troubadours, the decades of decadence off his face and literally out of his tree.

He’s backed by a band of performers who all do double duty in character creation, singing and instrument playing.

Abe Mitchell evokes the Jagger jut and strut and does a wicked Nick Cave to boot. A double hoot.

Branden Christine channels Chuck Berry, Queen Elizabeth and robust Rastafarian among others, while Lenore Munro is Marianne Faithful and more, and Dorje Swallow serves up Keefe’s inspirations – Granddad Gus and Howlin’ Wolf.

It's his gypsy granddad who got Keef interested in music and disdain for authority and the Establishment. In flashback and apparition, he encourages Keef to search for the secret chord, the harmonic set mythologised in the Bible and eulogised in Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

Hugh O’Connor’s set and costume design is a splendid mix of Boho glam and grunge, the graffiti grafted space tattooed with symbolic hieroglyph, and a manually operated revolve.

Sian James-Holland’s lighting sets moods of public and private performance and sharp contrast between nostalgia and now.

Katelyn Shaw makes her debut as a sound designer since completing her training at NIDA this year.

Let's spend the night together? In company like this, it's a gas, gas, gas.

Griffin Theatre Company presents
A Riff on Keef: The Human Myth
by Benito Di Fonzo

Director Lucinda Gleeson

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 25 November – 12 December 2015
Tickets: $38 – $30
Bookings: 02 9361 3817

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