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Reviews / Review: New Rope show fun for all the family

The New Rope String Band's Mareel show, following dates in Ollaberry and Walls, was their farewell to the islands. Photo: Chris Brown

THE CHANCE to see the New Rope String Band one last time, was something I didn’t want to miss out on, writes Sheila Duncan.

As the audience assembled at Mareel on Sunday night, the atmosphere was relaxed.  The group are no strangers to Shetland and people came knowing exactly what to expect. Tim, Pete and Jock, took to the stage and presented a selection of the sketches which have made them so popular with local audiences.

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One of the highlights for me involved the use of a white screen to project a pre-recorded sequence, which saw the three members of the New Rope String Band in silhouette, running along a musical stave, being chased by the musical notation for the tunes their live counterparts were playing on the stage.  Cleverly put together, it was a perfect demonstration of the mixture of music and comedy the New Rope String Band are so good at.

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Tim Dalling’s silhouette eventually came a cropper, being impaled by a crotchet! He reached behind the screen and pulled out his tiny likeness, then proceeded to express his distress in Greek, while the audience howled with laughter.

I attended the concert with my six year old daughter and 18 year old son and I think we all enjoyed the show in equal measure. Emma was transfixed by the sketches involving the white screen, and fully believed that the members of the group did get inside the screen. I felt it would be wrong to dispel the illusion!

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Besides that, we had a range of alternative instruments being used to create the musical backdrop for the group’s antics. A Theremin was used to perform a version of ‘Nessun Dorma’ and a nameless waltz, with Pete taking the lead, and one of the sketches in the second half also featured a large metal fish which was played to great effect by Tim and Jock.

The fish bones and back were struck to provide the musical and percussive backing for Pete, who appeared on stage dressed as a mermaid to sing “her” lament about how the combination of ageing and too much use of electronic gadgets made it impossible to put sailors into a trance anymore.  Pete’s mermaid ensemble, complete with bare belly, provided a more than a few giggles.

For their official final number the group treated the audience to a reprise of their version of ‘The Seagull’ performed on pipes. The pipes, of course, were not bagpipes, but plastic pipes which created a range of musical notes when struck on arms, legs, heads, etc. This sketch centres around a contraption built of a few larger pipes attached to a step ladder, which are also struck to provide the bass notes. If it sounds complicated, that’s because is it, but the New Rope String Band make it all look so easy. As we get caught up in the comedic elements of what they are doing, it’s easy to overlook the fact they are all talented musicians.

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Pete had already explained that they intended to do an encore, but the crowd still roared for more, just in case. They finished off the night with a sketch which again used the white screen. Featuring Tim this time, who, having fallen asleep on stage, climbed aboard the white screen – where we were treated to a dream sequence that saw him fly around the world on a red Lilo and eventually arrive on stage at the Sage in Gateshead to rapturous applause. The moment soon turned sour however, when his melodica playing on ‘Scotland The Brave’ didn’t quite hit the right notes, and he realised that he was on stage dressed only in a pair of pink y-fronts. 

At this point, the “real” Tim reappeared from the white screen with said red Lilo attached to his back, two melodicas attached to his front, wearing only the pink y-fronts and his white socks.  Besides being told he should be ashamed of himself for his attire by the other members of the band, the act finished with a song proclaiming the polar opposite of that.

It is sad to think this is the last time the New Rope String Band will perform as a group in Shetland, but I’m sure they will find their way back in other guises or, as they said, “with other guys”.  We will all just have to buy their DVD so we have something to remember them by. It appears the audiences in Ollaberry and Walls had that thought, as by Sunday night they had completely sold out.

Sheila Duncan

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