Strange Face: Adventures With A Lost Nick Drake Recording

“Strange face, with your eyes So pale and sincere. Underneath you know well You have nothing to fear....”

Burdett salvaging the demo tape from a skip is a wonder. Yet the real miracle of this show is that he manages to wring pathos out of PowerPoint.

So starts Cello Song, a melancholic sliver of a song that appears halfway through Nick Drake’s debut album, Five Leaves Left. It’s a delicate, mysterious opening, one which draws the listener in close.

A plain grey PowerPoint slide displaying the name of this show and its author, greets us for Strange Face: Adventures with a lost Nick Drake recording.

This doesn’t seem to bode well for the show to follow. However, over the next hour, the packed house at The Old Market were held in thrall by Michael Burdett, composer and accidental owner of an unreleased demo of Cello Song, salvaged from a skip he was in charge of clearing out as a teenage assistant at Island Records.

Over the past few years, Burdett has become the guardian of this little piece of forgotten musical magic. The complications of the Nick Drake estate means that the song can’t be released, so instead of broadcasting it to the world, he decided to embark on a project of ‘narrowcasting’. Loading up a portable CD player with the track, Burdett travelled across Britain, approaching strangers on the street, in barber shops, sitting by the sea and leaning by their motorbikes. He asked them four questions: What’s your name? What do you do? What kind of music are you into? And have you heard Nick Drake’s music before? Then, he slipped a pair of headphones over their ears and allowed them to listen to the unreleased song.

The photographs of these enthralled listeners – charmingly in black & white – as well as Burdett’s stories about his journeys, form the bulk of the surprising, moving show. The first surprise for many of us was the disappointing fact that we, as an audience, wouldn’t be hearing the unreleased Cello Song, which is brought up at the outset. But by the end, this barely matters.

At times, Burdett’s references or jokes seem a bit too targeted to a certain middle-aged audiophilic Dad-type, yet admirably this isn’t a show purely for Nick Drake obsessives. Ultimately, it’s about the private, intimate act of listening to music and the surprises, coincidences and connections that can be forged with strangers using music as a conduit.

Burdett salvaging the demo tape from a skip is a wonder. Yet the real miracle of this show is that he manages to wring pathos out of PowerPoint.

Reviews by Catherine O'Sullivan

Brighton Spiegeltent

Joe Black: Meet Me At The Eldorado

Rialto Theatre

Cinebra: A History Of Horror

Sweet St Andrew's

I Will Carry You Over Hard Times

The Warren: Studio 3

Hurricane Michael

Brighton Spiegeltent: Bosco

Help! I Think I Might Be Fabulous

Old Police Cells Museum

The Brighton Killers


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now



The Blurb

Edinburgh award-winning show comes to Brighton. Michael Burdett travelled all over the UK giving people the opportunity to hear a lost Nick Drake recording. Humorous and poignant, 'Strange Face' celebrates life, coincidences and the legacy of singer-songwriter Nick Drake. [newline] "A gorgeous show" (The Times)

Most Popular See More

Grease the Musical

From £20.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets