views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

A Boy Named Cash
Upstairs at the Gatehouse
11th August 2016


Monty Cotton

Photography provided by the Camden Fringe

Everybody loves a bit of Johnny Cash, don't they? This was certainly the most packed Camden Fringe show I've been to so far. If you're wondering, the Camden Fringe hasn't managed to bring the real Johnny Cash back (your chances of seeing him still stand at 0% I'm afraid, unless you believe in all that Ouija board stuff) but they have found a pretty good alternative in Monty Cotton. Extremely talented, fun, and, most importantly, with a decent Johnny Cash voice: A Boy Named Cash is a great crowd pleaser.

Cotton is a showman (a bit like the man himself really). While treating the audience to Cash's songs, he introduces us to a few of the singer's techniques. For example, did you know that Cash used to take a playing card and weave it into the strings of his guitar? It creates a sound a bit like a percussion instrument. What about the origins of the songs: do you know who wrote them all? As it happens, Cash was a big fan of covers. Luckily this gives Cotton a chance to put his own flair into the tribute show, with his "What songs would Johnny Cash have covered if he were still alive?" section. We are treated with covers ranging from the Spice Girls and Beyoncé to Oasis and the Bee Gees, all in Cash's style. Cotton doesn't perform the new covers in full; instead he plays different parts, quickly switching between the songs. I really enjoyed this part; it adds originality to the show and is very entertaining.

You will probably be pleased to hear that Cotton also performs many of the classics (though I did overhear one die-hard fan say that he would have liked even more, so please do extend your show next time). My favourites, Ring of Fire and I Walk the Line (obviously), didn't disappoint. Audience participation is encouraged throughout, with clapping, stomping, dancing, and singing/shouting. I felt the vibrations below my feet many a time, so the show's energy is certainly palpable. One lucky lady even got to be a replacement June, joining Cotton on stage for a duet (incidentally, if you don't want to sing you probably shouldn't offer yourself up as a possible wife when the question is asked). Cotton also has a bit of banter here and there with the audience: who has tried drugs/been to prison/had beer for breakfast...?

A Boy Named Cash is a one-man show. There is no Tennessee Three backing band, so Cotton has to be inventive. He manages to create layers of sound by recording and saving parts and then adding more (or at least I think that is what he was doing, however I'm really no expert). Whatever it was though, it worked. If I'm being really critical (as I suppose that is my job), there was one point where the music to voice balance was slightly out in my view, but only the once.

Overall this is a great, fun show. You can remember Johnny Cash in style, shout out the lyrics, and stamp your feet to your heart's content. And let’s not forget Monty Cotton, who is also a talented musician in his own right.

A Boy Named Cash opened on 11th August and runs until 14th August 2016 at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Highgate (Northern)

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