At fringe theatre festivals such as the Vault Festival, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd of hundreds of shows. How do you think of something entirely original, which has never been done before? Well, Volume Club has managed to do just this by creating a Grunge Opera, an ode to grunge legend Kurt Cobain.
Earth to Kurt follows Kurt as he navigates some sort of purgatory afterlife, the show does this in the medium of gig theatre. If you’ve never experienced gig theatre before, it is a show which tells a story by incorporating live music within it, most of the time music is a constant factor within the show, seamlessly integrated, thus resembling a live music gig – but also telling a story.
The band members enter the stage and begin setting up their instruments, the band is called The Fates, and is formed of Esmee Ashby (Drums), Georgie Palmer (Bass), and Jolene Venzi (Guitar). Kurt (George Clark) then emerges, wearing a red jumpsuit, the band plug in his guitar and we move full steam ahead into Clark and Pete Mills’ original music.
As Kurt reminisces about his childhood we see how much the band adore Kurt, evident from their endearing looks as they watch on whilst he plays with a toy from his upbringing.
The music is ultimately the best part of this show, as it should be with gig theatre, I could listen to the album on repeat. We start with more punky sounds when Kurt is reflecting on his youth, and we watch as this evolves into the grunge sound he is famous for. With impeccable guitar solos and pitch-perfect harmonies along the way, there is no weak link within this cast, each proving to be an accomplished, talented musician, of which I rapidly became a fan.
From nowhere Elvis (Kyran Peet aka Kyran Thrax) appears, stunning the audience as he emerges on stage. In Vegas Elvis-era attire, Kyran is in full drag and looks exceptional, and then they open their mouth and stun even further – performing songs themself with undeniable stage presence.
Although this has the potential to be a tough-to-watch show, after all, we all know how Kurt’s life ended, and what he endured throughout – it could be incredibly triggering material. However, this portrayal is treated tenderly, with Kurt taciturn throughout, shown as most confident when behind a guitar, simply observing until he is ready to move on in the afterlife. It is subtly moving, poignant when you ruminate on it, so cleverly portrayed, nuanced, and complex. Honestly, this is a work of art, possessing huge amounts of originality, this is one of the most unique, exciting, and fully realised shows I’ve seen at the Vaults this year. Earth to Kurt is a perfect honour to Kurt’s memory and is gig theatre at its best.