CHARLIE CHUCK FEATURE
So disturbed that they’re calling him a cult, comic genius, Charlie Chuck goes to the Bread Shop with Stephen Chester. Woof, bark donkey.
t’s the sort of haircut which suggests the ECT went horribly wrong. And the first impressions are, indeed, of a man suffering from several severe mental illnesses. He walks, unsteadily, on stage, supporting his swaying frame with a rough hewn plank of wood. Muttering, and occasionally coughing, he takes his seat at a battered drumkit. There he begins to drum, with the plank of wood, to a backing track. And within ten minutes one’s doubts as to this man’s sanity have been removed. For Charlie Chuck is, for want of a more psychiatrically precise phrase, several almonds short of a Bakewell slice. Confirmation comes when he begins to thrash violently and abuse the cymbals. After this rather uncomfortable interlude he continues to drum, until ﬁnding offence at the presence of the hi-hat. It starts to get ugly then — the hi-hat never really stands a fighting chance, and soon the splinters are raining down thickly upon an audience in primary shock.
Even at this point one might still be willing to interpret it all as a powerful, even penetrating study of the ambiguous relationship between madness and performance. Or, if you’ve been along to Marxism ’5 Today’s Fringe contribution, you could decide to view it as a complex critique of the Tories ‘Community Care’ non—programme. But by the time you’ve considered the coolest critical option the drum kit has been destroyed and Chuck is at the front of the stage, and then you know that this guy is a psycho on the search for a shower curtain.
Describing the rest of Charlie Chuck’s Fringe show and why it’s funny would be an attempt to eff the ineffable if ever there was one, so suffice to say that much of its success seems to be built upon the blending of a powerful (even fearful) stage presence with a complete disregard for the audience. Imagine a cross between a Northern Steven Berkoff and the nutters who stand in doorways muttering all day and you’ve got a general impression.
His unique act is now earning a much deserved cult reputation, and with Harvey Goldsmith set to promote him it seems that the time of the Chuck is upon us. How much longer will it be,
Imagine a cross between a Northern Steven Berkoff and the nutters who stand in ' doorways muttering all day and you’ve got a general impression.
photograph DAVID HARROLD
one ponders, before the pubs are full of drunken males putting on thick Yorkshire accents and shouting their favourite Chuck catchphrases; ‘Eadiel’, ‘Donkey’ and ‘Where Am 1’.” And if all that means little to those who haven’t seen the show then don’t worry, because I have and I’ve no idea why he suddenly barks them out.
Chuck fortunately opted to jot down some thoughts for the benefit of The List, which was a great relief to an interviewer challenged with questioning a being from a parallel universe. His letter, printed for the most part in block capitals, resembles the sort of document held up by Detective Chief Superintendents as they intone ‘someone must recognise the handwriting’ on Crimewatch. Here is a brief transcript:
‘lt’s nice to be in Edinburgh a man called Hardee brought me up (Malcolm) he keeps giving me money when he’s got any there’s something not quite right with him. My mam
used to put the shits up me when l was a kid she used to take me up to bed and piss off out and told me if I came down Bongy would get me that was one of the ghosts we had.’
Of his coming appearance on The Smell 0f Reeves & Mortimer on BBC2 in the autumn he is somewhat reticent, commenting only ‘I like Vic Reeves. I like Bob Mortimer as well. He wa a gentleman wa Bob. And Vic Reeves wa as well.’
How massive Charlie Chuck will be in a year’s time is probably making his promoters grin as widely as his audiences are now. What more can you say about a man capable of pushing the entire Gilded Balloon into hysteria merely by repeating, ‘l’ll have a slice of cake’? He’s part of
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh . . . The Best One Yet, don’t be frightened, go soon and Donkey. D Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh . . .The Best One Yet
(Fringe) Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2151, until 28 Aug, 11.30pm, £6.50 (£5).
The List 20—26 August 1993 9