To Bling, Or Not To Bling?
(8th March 2003)

Hello, there’s a bus advertising something hip hop. And there’s another. I can’t seem to walk between any two of Dublin's boozers without a number 57 disappearing round the corner just fast enough that I can’t read what the huge poster on the back is all about. Me and Donna Donnelly are in Dublin for a couple of days’ R&R. That’s rest and (more) rest. Not rock’n’roll. But we’re up for some H&H (that’s hip and hop) if it’s on while we're here. So the elusive advert is intriguing. It looks like someone’s tagging the arse end of all the public transport in town. Bomb the bus. Heh Heh. But it’s not so intriguing that we won’t just duck into Messrs Maguire (we recommend it, as a break from the Guinness hegemony) for a quick pint of plain.

And what do you know? While the barman’s busying himself over the perfect Irish coffee and my pint’s settling, Donna D turns up a postcard from the other end of the bar. It’s the bus advert. Jesus. The Bomb-Itty of Errors.

"Shakespeare’s cool rediscovered? You better believe it" – The Daily Telegraph.

Please, no. Surely it couldn’t be. Not. No. Really, I mean it. No.

"If you don’t know hip-hop from boogie-woogie, you’re still likely to have a good time with the infectious fun generated by the engaging new show." – The Chicago Tribune.

No.

"The Bomb-Itty of Errors is a unique and bold hip hop spin on Shakespeare’s farcical tale of mistaken identities."

No.

"The Bomb-Itty of Errors is a clever, hilarious and wildly energetic show that combines Shakespeare’s love of wordplay with the streetwise language of rap."

No. I thought that flyer for Authentic I picked up in Cambridge was a stillborn one-off:

"Dancers versus DJs, contemporary dance versus hip hop:"

No. No. No.

"Shakespeare’s Othello as you’ve never seen it before."

Jesus wept, no more.

Shakespeare is not LL Cool J – he doesn’t need a beat – and hip hop is already poetry, it needs Shakespeare about as much as it needs Shakin' Stevens. But this isn’t about art, it’s about brand extension. Out of ideas? Exploit an existing brand. Hip hop and Shakespeare are established brands and The Bomb-Itty of Errors is, sadly, just another example of the post-modern malaise. It’s everywhere. Can’t think of a new biscuit? Simple – stick M&Ms or Bounty on top. Can’t think of a new ice-cream? Simple, stick Marathon or Milky Way into it. Can’t think of a good flavour for crisps? Simple, stick Marmite or baked beans on ‘em. Richard Branson is the archbishop of the Church of Brand Bending. Virgin licences its name to make clothes, run phone networks, produce fizzy drinks, sell electricity, fly you around the world, mortgage your house and, oh yes, put records out. Talking of which, the music biz isn’t beyond a bit of brand recycling either. Can’t find a decent new song for Will or Gareth? Simple, take a classic and let them tear it to pieces. Can’t find any good new bands? Simple, find some that play 30-year-old music and flog that instead.

Is there such a dearth of creativity that the only way to come up with something new is to bastardise something else? I’m no expert, but it looks that way. Theatre attendances down? Get a film actor in. Attendances still down? Recreate a film on stage. Attendances still down? Get Ben Elton to dream up an excruciatingly flimsy bullshit storyline that segues a load of Queen songs into a show for the coachloads of provincial wannabee sophisticates looking for a good-time night out. That ought to do it. That or jam a DJ onto the balcony with Juliet. "Romeo, Romeo, w-w-w-w-w-w-wherefore art thou, Romeo?"

But, you know what? I really don’t care. If somebody’s getting off on a bunch of jobbing actors murdering Freddie Mercury’s finest moments, then good luck to ‘em. If that’s how they want to waste their hard-earned, then so be it. Fine.

But, you know what? I really do care. Not about Queen. But about the idea that anybody thinks there’s any point rewriting The Comedy of Errors for a DJ and MC and no doubt a bunch of dancers wearing brightly coloured shirts over string vests, bandanas, baggy pants and inane Tru-Brite smiles. Are devotees of Shakespeare, highly renowned for their open-mindedness when it comes to new art, likely to embrace this revision of The Bard’s work? I doubt it. Is any self-respecting hip hop fanatic going to nip off to the theatre for a sanitised, Sunday School sermon version of the hardcore beats and rhymes they love with a half-time helping of Haagen-Daas in a cardboard thimble? I don’t think so.

So who is this for? Well, The Bomb-Itty of Errors It’s for people who don’t know hip hop from boogie-woogie and can’t concentrate long enough to sit through a Shakespeare play in its intended form. It’s for people who think that "Bomb-Itty of Errors" is a good pun and somehow think that going to the theatre makes them sophisticated despite these flaws. But this is just one example of the general principal, and that's for people who snarf up whatever crud we’re fed by a mainstream media that’s in thrall to the corporations remaking the things we were already perfectly happy with in ways we couldn’t care less about.

And how to stop it? Don’t buy the crap. To bling, or not to bling? Easy. Not.


home
: reviews : interviews : live : features : shop : search: contact