Review: Beautiful Losers
It starts with a beat. That, in the words of On The Road author Jack Kerouac and his partner in crime Neal Cassidy, is what "it" is all about.
But Beautiful Losers, the tale of a writer, his muse and their hunger for life, is about so much more.
The story, the inspiration for Kerouac's best-selling novel that broke all the rules before reinventing them all over again, explodes with words, music, heat and excess in a way that makes you marvel at the fact Kerouac would have turned 90 this year.
When On The Road was published in 1957, it changed the world. It opened eyes and is said by many to have been the driving force behind the Beat Generation. It talked about the realities of youth: sex, drugs, and living for the moment.
And the relationship between the writer and his frenetic mate was the source.
Encapsulating 20 years, from behind the wheel of stolen cars and through cross-country escapes that dragged Kerouac away from behind his 1940s typewriter, through to the reality of fame, both hunted for and unwillingly found, Beautiful Losers is a snapshot of a time and many, many places.
These are two boys ravenous to taste everything in the world, desperate to touch, smell, see, and hear all that is on offer. Mike Hudson's script is big and it's bold and it's colourful, capturing the hope and the eagerness of the time that was defined by Kerouac's own words.
Kerouac, in all his intensity, is portrayed wonderfully by Paul Glover, with Scott Wills infectiously embodying the fast-talking, faster living Cassidy, the pair setting a rhythm that is maintained for the full 70 minutes.
Again borrowing from the script that spits words at you so powerfully but poetically, the complexity is in the simplicity. And indeed with a set that doesn't change, the two actors use just movement, stance and some rather fantastic voices to launch from one character and scene to another.
One minute Wills is the drug-riddled, oddly insightful oracle of Cassidy, the next he is Kerouac's unimpressed mother. It is a masterful performance.
Kerouac wrote the final take of his generation-defining masterpiece in less than a month. There were no paragraphs, no chapters, just reams of hand-typed experiences. And in a way, that's just what Beautiful Losers is.
From changing characters to scenes, places to moments in time, there is no obvious link - just a call to strap yourself into the passenger seat and join the chase for "it"; for that perfect beat. And it's a hell of a ride.
WHAT: Beautiful Losers
WHERE: TAPAC Theatre, Auckland
WHEN: Until September 8
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