Co-written by Welsh composer Dafydd James and Ben Lewis (founder of award-winning theatre company Inspector Sands), ”My Name Is Sue” comes to London via the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe where it won a Total Theatre Award for Music and Theatre.
We are welcomed into Sue’s normal lounge with its chairs, framed pictures, books, an upright piano, a cupboard full of skulls, a drum kit and, seated at the piano, the fantastically falsettoed, bemusingly bewigged and dangerously demented Sue (James in outstanding form) decked out in a frumpy cardigan and skirt. Ok, normal-ish.
Over the course of an hour, Sue recounts twisted tales from her past life, remembering her family, her schooling and her adventures thereafter. The pace in general is electric: Sue manically rattles through the songs, head twisted towards the audience, while popping pills and playing the piano with an abandon that Jerry Lee Lewis would be proud of. The pace only lets up at the end with a moving Radiohead cover and a schizophrenic number which presages Sue’s final flip into madness.
Throughout much of the show, Sue is accompanied by a female trio (“the Sues”) on cello, violin, drums, guitar and backing vocals. All three are largely mute and wear similar wigs to Sue above baleful glares. The drummer’s stern and surly features in particular are an excellent foil to Sue’s effervescence.
If the show has a weakness, it's the ending: after the black humour and the joyfully surreal lyrics of the earlier songs, the final two numbers are a cold-hearted dog-leg into the starkness of mental illness. Overall, the show is a triumph of music, humour and story; a difficult combination which James and Lewis have done well to pull off.