It’s 1972 and Vince Cosmos is all the rage. He is the enigmatic Glam Rock star who sings about being an alien and whose followers worship him. Poppy Munday is the secretary of his fan club – Sunderland chapter – and all her dreams are about to come true when she finds herself drawn into the strange orbit of the Seventies’ most fabulous star.
If you take a pinch of Man About the House, mix with an affectionate take on David Bowie and liberally sprinkle with more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at and then bake at high temperature for about 90 minutes, you end up with a tasty final product in the form of Vince Comsos: Glam Rock Detective!
Taking two formidable forces within the world of fiction and combining them has created a brilliant opening instalment for the first in a new series of adventures in 70’s London. Bafflegab Productions, best known for their productions of The Scaryfiers have teamed up with writer Paul Magrs, perhaps best known for his Doctor Who work, and last seen on this blog for Wildthyme Beyond.
Magrs’ larger than life descriptions and ideas are perfectly suited to the audio medium as it allows your mind to take his imagery and embellish it with your own spin. Certainly over the course of the play, Magrs drip feeds enough detail (backed up with some creepy sound effects) to put the frighteners on you as the nostalgic humour is alternated with ghoulish horror.
Julian Rhind-Tutt takes the lead as the ethereal Vince Comsos. Rhind-Tutt gives Comsos an unearthly and aloof spin – perfect for this gentle ribbing of David Bowie. You can imagine the piercing, inquisitive looks he would bore into you were this on screen. With an ego the size of his flares, were it not for his entourage of helpers, you’d wonder how vulnerable this child-like man really is.
But this isn’t Vince’s story. It is stolen in a beautifully heart-rending performance from Lauren Kellegher as Poppy Munday – the young teen thrust centre stage. Poppy is our eyes and ears into the hustle and bustle of a capital under change. We see the awe and hysteria Vince creates through her – and the fear of the big city. The typical teen trying to find herself can become very wearing, but Poppy becomes an touching young girl who by the end you genuinely care for thanks to Magrs deft touch and Kellegher’s confident and assured performance.
One thing that is really enjoyable about Magrs’ writing is his domestic scenes and scenes of family together. Vince Comsos doesn’t disappoint as the relationship between Poppy and cousin Trisha (a ballsy Margaret Cabourn-Smith) builds throughout the story. Magrs lyrical lines are the binding to all the relationships between the different characters.
The biggest success for me is definitely the acerbic and waspish Mr. Glister. Brilliantly comic and eccentric in equal measure, Alex Lowe’s caustic performance gives much of the humour to proceedings. Katy Manning’s impressive range is extended further in her role as endearing landlady Gilda. When combined with her grumpy husband Brian (a superbly irritated David Benson), the pair might have walked straight out of a LWT sitcom. One can only hope that they get an adventure all of their very own soon.
It is the little details embellishing Magrs’ script that makes this such an enjoyable adventure. Opal Fruits, Vesta chow meins and girly pip-up magazines all set the scene so much more evocatively than any amount of horrible 70’s patterned wallpaper. This even extends through to the design of the CD cover – styled like a gatefold LP – even down to a fake £1 price sticker.
Sure, as the origin story. it takes its time to set up the premise and the characters. You are left itching for Poppy and Vince to just get on and meet for most of the first half. However, once they do – the fireworks (and plot) kick into gear.
An affectionate homage to times gone past and a credible world to be visiting, Vince Comsos is a tongue-in-cheek, funny, sometimes surprising and enjoyable ninety minutes. I sincerely hope this isn’t the last we see of the self-styled saviour as you’ll be humming the catchy theme tune for some time yet.
The Fiction Stroker gives Vince Comsos: Glam Rock Detective four strokes out of five:
Vince Comsos: Glam Rock Detective is available now from Bafflegab Productions.