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It was a shame to see such a small audience at Matthew Sharp’s Johnny’s Midnight Goggles, which launched the Lichfield Festival at the Garrick’s Studio last night. But the problem was neither artist nor content; as a piece of art, Johnny’s Midnight Goggles is difficult to explain, and therefore difficult to market, especially to Lichfield’s hardcore classical audience.
Yet cellist and actor Sharp and writer Peter M Wyer (known collectively as SharpWire) have created a truly gob-smacking late-night spectacle, but one that is rooted in old-fashioned storytelling. Sharp tells the audience a fantastical tale that opens with a man, drawn down a dark path in a forest, then turns to the surreal story of the Black Camel of Takrilakastan and a plot to destroy the universe. Sharp does this with the help of his cello, his singing voice, atmospheric lighting, some laptop wizardry and formidable acting skills.
If you just took Sharp as a cellist, his talent is breathtaking; he played the audience in with a bit of Bach, urging us to ‘keep talking’ as if we were ‘at a wedding’ and even this causal piece of entertainment displayed a formidable musicianship. But Sharp (who is also a member of physical theatre group the gogmagogs), sings and acts equally well, and it’s a dynamite combination, especially alongside Wyer’s writing skills.
Johnny’s Midnight Goggles is something you might stumble on at the Edinburgh Fringe: a mad-cap adventure, stuffed with talent, and perfect post-pub entertainment. Tonight (9.45pm) is your last chance to see it, but Sharp also performs the sequel, Finkelstein’s Castle, at the Garrick tomorrow (9.45pm).
This review is by Mrs Woffington, a local blogger who writes about Lichfield’s 18th-century heritage on her blog, Memoirs of the Celebrated Mrs Woffington.