“It’s about feeling alive”. Music is a great many things to different people. For two aging and forgotten rockstars, it’s a chance at redemption, to set their lives back on the right track. Venture Wolf’s third production at the fringe finds the special effect that music has, and runs with the idea, allowing for some pretty strong emotions to surface. But with a confused script that feels more like a clash of ideas than a successful jam session, Vinyl Encore misses that special connection it was aiming for.
One morning, a guitarist for a modern hit-making band, Kieran Kurtz, finds himself in the house of 70’s cult rocker King A. The previous evening, the two had come together on a night out, both trying to chat up a record producer. As the haze of the morning clears, the producer’s promise is revealed – he’ll release a record for both of them, so long as they record it together. Instantly the battle of age and style is clear.
Playing King, AW King is completely believable as a rock star. He is a punk rocker whose lyrics are like psychedelic poetry. Kurtz, played more straight laced by Paul Vitty, is insecure about his talent as a guitarist, keen to play far more than just three chords in a song. The dream to work together is about as madcap as they come, but as the jamming begins the possibility starts to look quite attractive. Competent musicians, at first King’s lyrics don’t quite fit Vitty’s improv guitar, but there is a spark of something. Aping the heavy guitar rock sound of the White Stripes, and highly reminiscent of DIY punk, there’s potential here for excellence with some polish.
The problem with Vinyl Encore’s production is that it promises the two will get over their differences and end up creating something harmonious and unique, but they never do. The music never quite reaches brilliance, and the other elements of the script echo this. Unstructured, the dialogue can feel a little too improvisational sometimes, meaning that the lines crash into each other as much as the characters. Both musicians are clearly going through more personally than just a career slump, but the story beats don’t combine in such a way that the emotion can be felt. It’s not that they are unlikeable characters, in fact, they are quite relatable. It’s just that the convoluted and sometimes absurd nature of the script doesn’t allow for sufficient empathy to build.
An ominous knock at the door propels this production towards its conclusion, with a sense that something more slick could have achieved a far greater effect. Both Vitty and King bring the required emotion to their respective roles, and their passion for music is so clear. But in the end, they don’t quite manage to articulate why the music made them feel so alive.