Perth Fringe: The Polite Gentleman

Mark Storen Photo:  Adam Mitchell
Mark Storen
Photo: Adam Mitchell

I had seen Mark Storen before at the late, much lamented former Fremantle venue, Deckchair Theatre, so it was no surprise to see him present a one man show as part of the Fringe Festival of Perth. He is a strong presence onstage.

The Robert Johnson myth is an interesting story. It concerns a black man whose life is empty, poor and unsuccessful. Legend has it he made a pact with the devil who empowered him to become an iconic bluesman. Robert Johnson existed in real life. How this story came about is anybody’s guess. There are recordings of his music which are used effectively throughout the piece.

‘Mouse’, the nickname for Johnson, is drawn to Frank, a puny small town garage owner. Little does he know Frank has had past dealings with the devil. Somehow the prayers of Mouse have gone astray and garnered the attention of the devil, which explains the attraction.

Johnson makes his way to 54 George St, Shepherdstown where Frank lives, guided by directions that have been mysteriously emblazoned in fiery letters on his chest. Here he warily encounters the devil incarnate as a handsome chicken! I really have to remark here how credible Storen is as the devil within a chicken. He struts and mimes the cigar smoking egotistical fowl superbly.

Then there are the negotiations between Johnson and the devil. Finally a pact is reached. There are diverting sidetracks when the devil’s sexy secretarial cow brings in the paperwork for the deals. Storen excels in accents and lightning character changes.

Once the deal is done, and Frank and Isobel (Mouse’s cheating wife) are dispatched, Mouse becomes a stellar bluesman.

This is a bizarre, surreal journey that few could imagine, but Storen pulls it off.

I would have liked to hear even more of his excellent guitar and bluesy vocals. The show closed with the chill refrain “Devils got me runnin’ He’s gonna make me pay”.

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