Mark Billingham (bestselling crime author) and My Darling Clementine (a country duo who won Americana Artist of the Year at the British Country Music Awards) have come together in The Other Half to depict the everyday tragedy of falling in and out of love. The first half tells us about the protagonist, Martia, in a Memphis Bar and the stories of those that she encounters. From a former showgirl to a woman attached to the man who killed her abusive husband, you are introduced to a variety of characters and dramatic stories which are all accompanied by songs performed and written by My Darling Clementine.
Both Vicky McGarry and Kade Lafferty came out of the same show feeling very differently. Below are their thoughts.
Mark Billingham spins love into a more harrowing direction; reversing the viewpoint and exploring the roads to being alone when love is lost. With the reputations on the line of both Billingham and My Darling Clementine I expected great things.
The story line itself had moments of clear promise, if only it had been explored further or even the use of projection had given us a little more insight into each character. I will give credit to Billingham that we do follow the turbulent tale of each character and in turn this creates a plot which is pungently self-reflective as we consider the lengths we go to in the search for love. The bar in itself is a metaphor for loneliness as when Martia’s sordid love interest, Jimmy, returns she moves to work at another bar and is visited by only two of her old regulars who have also both now found love.
The use of song in between each small chunk of narrative is where it got confusing even with their spirit, which arguably is the only thing which carries the show to the end. The songs utilised in the first act were written entirely for meaning and to an extent the plot progressed through them as further information was revealed. The second half songs lacked any clear narration. In the spirit of the song ‘I don’t mean these words to be cruel’ but all in all the songs were poor quality with each one merging into the next, the only characterisation being the yawning of my date next to me.
Unfortunately, for me it is only the self-deprecating humour of the band (My Darling Clementine) which lifts the emphatically sober audience on occasions. If you are a country music fan this the show would be more enjoyable as there is constant song. What the play did highlight for me was Mark Billingham’s tremendous talent as an author and I cannot wait to get my hands on one of his books – a sure fire for your Mum’s Christmas Stocking Filler!
They say you should never judge a book by its cover and yet I definitely judged The Other Half by its synopsis, but boy was I wrong. Expecting a country themed musical drama, what I got instead was a thoroughly enjoyable musical narrative. Despite being nothing like my expectations, I found the show very innovative and entertaining. I was also very impressed with the quality of the performance, especially since this was only the second time The Other Half has ever been shown.
I really appreciated the songs in the second half. Once again they were flawlessly performed and very entertaining whilst giving us a chance to get to know the duo through their songs. We even got to see Mark Billingham sing one of the songs with My Darling Clementine and he was surprisingly really good!
Definitely a different way to spend Monday night, I loved The Other Half (despite not being much of a country fan beforehand) and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and alternative night out. Unfortunately, it was only at The Rep for one night and at the moment there are no plans for it to be shown in Birmingham again. However, you should definitely keep it on your radar in case they return with another performance in the future.