Loudon Wainwright III – Surviving Twin – Leicester Square Theatre – March 9th 2017

Loudon’s father (Loudon Jr) was, for many years, an esteemed columnist with LIFE magazine. His words could be found on every American coffee table and the power of this writing was something that the younger Loudon actively sought to dismiss. But, in recent years, after being touched by some of the memories and stories within, Loudon has re-appraised his opinion. Much of this show consists of Loudon invoking the ghost of his father and acting out the words he once wrote.

In one such column, Disguising A Man, we hear about his father’s experience when buying a top-of-the-range suit from Savile Row. During the re-fitting process, much is considered about body image, style and the permanence of things. As Loudon strips from his tatty jeans to put on his father’s suit (“the actual one he had tailored”), you can’t help but be struck by the generational simplicity of it all. Simple overhead projections remind us that these were words published years ago in a magazine.

Elsewhere, Loudon plays tunes on guitar, banjo, ukelele and piano – a one man band gradually revealing another jigsaw piece in the puzzle that is his family relationships. Father and son went to the same boarding school and that gets revisited as does the story of a loyal, family dog’s final visit to the vets.  At times, we get to delve into a home movie montage and witness the similarities between Loudon Jr, Loudon III and Loudon’s own son, Rufus. Stones aren’t left unturned here.

I can’t help thinking of my own relationship with my Dad and feel an overwhelming need to call him and tell him that I love him. I think of how awkward my relationship with my own son can sometimes be and console myself that he’s just living his life and striving for his independence in the way that I once did. That’s the beauty of shows such as this – within the space and pause, you’re given time to ponder on your own peculiar position.

Big themes get covered during Surviving Twin at the Leicester Square Theatre. Birth, life and love, death and hate, this is both an elegiac tribute and a joyful celebration. It’s slickly performed and runs until this Sunday. It’s a show ready-made for a tour of literary and music festivals. 

There’s life in this old dog yet if we can get past our own hang-ups.

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