It all starts with a beat.
On Friday evening A and I, walking, busing, cabbing made our way to Tapac to watch House of Hudson and Tapac Theatre’s presentation of Beautiful Losers. Written by Mike Hudson and directed by Margaret Mary Hollins, Beautiful Losers is the story behind Jack Kerouac’s seminal work, On The Road.
Beginning in New York it follows Kerouac (Paul Glover) and Neal Cassady (Scott Wills) as they go off in search of something real, something exciting, something Burroughs. Littered with drug use, a deer, glitter and that unfortunate game of William Tell, it’s the journey that becomes On The Road, but also what happens afterwards – the pairs struggles with the fame that followed publication, their mutual but divided disintegration and death.
The stories of these men and those around them are stories that inspire, encouraging and informing generations since in the ways of drug experimentation and authorship. Because of that, I’d say that you’d be hard pressed to write a bad play about them, but it’s nice to say that this one is really very good.
Wills and Glover do a sensational job of bringing to life not just Kerouac and Cassady, but a whole world. Seamlessly they flit between these roles and other supporting ones, with Glover in one scene driving a conversation as both Kerouac and Burroughs. It’s speedy and energetic, yet clear making it a dream to watch. Indeed, not once during the 70 minutes did I find myself wondering how close to the end we were (a feat for my short attention span).
Beautiful Losers is a play that really benefits from all of the extra details. The set is simple, but for a desk in a corner, lit from above, drowned in books, paper, a type writer, some gobos leaking the outline of window frames across the floor. It begins with Kerouac at his desk, typing away, instantly pulling you into his world. Across the back of the stage is a screen printed with clouds, simple until with the assistance of lights and shadow it transforms into a rainbow of drug use, the epitome of drug imagining.
Jane Hakaraia has truly done a beautiful job of the lighting and I’m not just saying this as her daughter. There is one scene in particular, Mexico during a carnival with Burroughs, behind the screen is the shadow of a female figure dancing, there’s glitter, pink, blue, yellow. ‘It’s a beautiful, beautiful.’
At this stage I start to feel like I’m listing, trying to give everyone their well earned nod, but I can’t forget Drew McMillan’s music. The combination of this and all of the other elements made Beautiful Losers feel cinematic – in a good way. Just subtle little sound effects to build on the overall atmosphere mixed with great Jazz tunes. I was pretty much at home.
I always knew that Adam and I would enjoy this play. Adam is totally obsessed with the Beat Era, something that’s rubbed off on me as well. But I feel like most other people would enjoy it too. It’s got a life to it, imbued in the subject but fulfilled on stage that sucks you in, leaving us wishing that if only we’d been born a few decades earlier…