Bob Dylan played by a female duo? Whatever next? Actually, why not?
Rebecca Barnard and Monique di Mattina have set for themselves a pretty formidable challenge, to interpret a revered icon of Western popular music from a female perspective. By and large they succeed.
The programme of songs they present is rich and versatile. It combines solo numbers and duets, all accompanied by an array of instruments.
The multi-talented Di Mattina shines on the keyboard, as well as the ukulele and the electronic harmonica. While Barnard on guitar shows off a silky, cool jazz voice in a non-Dylan song titled, The Night we Called it a Day.
The show moves effortlessly from one number to the next and the two artists support each other well.
This is an exploration of Dylan, as much as an interpretation, hence the program delves into some of the less known compositions (less known to me at least) featuring songs that better represent the varied musical journey of the Dylan the artist, from his dust bowl roots to the poet of love and loss.
Missing is the Dylan of the anti-war movement, but that may be a deliberate omission rather than an oversight. This show is for a cabaret audience, and the more grave themes of war and social protest are probably best left out.
That said, the show does touch on more serious side of loss and the precariousness of human relationships. There is also a telling nod to feminism when one of the songs is reinterpreted with a female point of view.
The program ends with a rousing interpretation of one of Dylan’s best known songs, How Does it Feel.
The inherent cruelty of this song is thankfully lost in the vibrancy of the tune and the glorious, memorable images, ‘like a rolling stone’.
Dao of Dylan plays at Ace’s Cabaret, downstairs at His Majesty’s, every night until February, 17.