It’s satisfying when a show delivers what it promises, but it’s a delight when a show gives more than it seems to offer. This is one of those shows. Banjo Man tells the story of a musician dad who must have been hard to live with; it shows that it’s even harder to see your dad die, especially out of the blue. Especially when you’ve had no chance to say goodbye. This is Quina Chapman’s farewell to her dad. Liam Morgan, her partner in music and life, is the perfect accompanist.
What would be easy to miss in her storytelling is her seamless transition between narrative prose, conversational, seemingly-improvised chat and her poetry.
It’s certainly moving, with tears evident from a variety of audience members. “Sometimes I just sit and read the stamps in his passport,” Quina says. “My dad went on tour for three months, and I’ve only got five minutes’ worth of memories.”
The show is painful at times, but it has funny moments, too. When she’s thirteen her dad tells her, “If you’re gonna start dressing like a punk, it’s time you stopped listening to f***ing Spice Girls and started listening to some proper music!” Here her real musical journey begins.
What you’re not led to expect from this show is the beauty of Quina Chapman’s voice and the charming simplicity of her delivery. What would be easy to miss in her storytelling is her seamless transition between narrative prose, conversational, seemingly-improvised chat and her poetry. That’s just as it should be, but it’s quite a skill for someone who regards herself as “not really an actor,” because she is. She just needs to believe it and relax into the part a little more.
Quina had years of being mortified by a dad who was “six foot tall with a dodgy Mohican and eyebrow piercing,” by a dad who not only dances wildly but even does it in front of thousands. Her childhood was overshadowed by an increasingly inevitable family break-up, while friends raved, “You must be really proud of your dad!” She wasn’t. But by the time he died, that had all changed (including the haircut). And sure as hell, Roger Dinsdale, one-time platinum disc holder, dad and loony dancer, must be proud as hell as he looks down on his daughter.