Classical Mystery Tour

It’s always nice to go somewhere and feel young, despite one’s hell-speed approach toward 40. The Classical Mystery Tour Saturday matinee at Artscape was just such an occasion. There was a buzz amongst the ‘older’ crowd in the theatre as the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra tuned up – always a magical sound, reminiscent of first childhood theatre visits, and the wonder they gave.

As ‘Paul’, ‘Ringo’, ‘John’ and ‘George’ came on stage, looking rather disturbingly like the real thing, at least to this untrained eye, the audience erupted, and so did the music. The Beatles music is incredible, there’s no denying it. Beautifully written scores, with a full orchestra in mind, these reproductions with that full orchestra are fabulous.

The audience was made up of mostly gorgeously grey-haired ladies, some with husbands, some with children and grandchildren, others in gaggles of giggling ladies only. They clapped, they sang along, they wiggled in their seats and if one looked closely, you could see them, 40 years younger, in long skirts, flowers in their hair, their lives a blank canvas ahead of them. The theatre was full-to-overflowing with reminiscence, it shimmered in the air.

Don’t get me wrong, it was not only the old(er) members of the audience who were blasted into nostalgia. We grew up on The Beatles. My mother used to tell us stories of how she and my father (and various friends, who’re, fabulously, still around, fifty years on) used to hitchhike to Port Alfred from university in Grahamstown to camp on the beach. While there, they’d walk in to Wharf Street to watch films – like ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – in the town hall.

Almost thirty years’ later, I would do the same thing, minus the camping, being fortunate enough to have a beach shack filled with childhood joyous holiday memories, in which to stay. And minus the films in the town hall, which by then had moved over the river. The Beatles, by then, were a part of history.

I stray, though, the point is that I knew The Beatles. Every song. And pretty much every lyric.

There’s just something weird about people pretending to be other people. That, in itself sounds silly, that’s what happens on stage, always. It just seems somehow weirder when they’re pretending to be a band. While they’re incredibly good, both appearance- and performance-wise, it just feels odd.

Odd, perhaps, like one of my favourite verses from Penny Lane:

‘On the corner is a banker with a motorcar
The little children laugh at him behind his back
And the banker never wears a mac
In the pouring rain…
Very strange’

Despite it all, it’s hard not to be swept up by an audience of screaming ‘girls’. While they weren’t quite the screaming girls of Beatles film footage, we still went home singing, proverbial flowers in our hair.

*An edited version of this piece was published at What’s On In Cape Town.

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