When a wayward music journalist gave a bad review to a Dexys live gig that never took place on account of it being cancelled Kevin Rowland accosted the chump and delivered the kind of four-to-the-floor beating Sean Penn regularly dished out to veiny sexbore Madonna during their life threateningly tedious relationshit. So when, in Dancing on the Edge, 1930s music journo Stanley (Matthew Goode) rolls up to The Shitbox Tavern, Kilburn just as American jazz outfit The Louis Lester Band leave the stage you do wonder if he’s going to say “fuck it”, run his mouth in the press and risk a Rowland style mauling. Instead he asks Shitbox proprietor Deirdre (Caroline Quentin) what she thought of the humps. Real good, she says. That’s good enough for Stanley who slips backstage and ride him sideways if The Louis Lester Band aren’t all gentlemen of colour. This will certainly shake them up in stuffy 1930s Britain where the only reason we don’t have segregation is because we shoot them on sight.
But eff it – it’s time to meet the band. Louis Lester (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is our bandleader – born in the UK and as dashing and dapper as they come. Then there’s band manager Wesley (Ariyon Bakare) who claims he was born in Cardiff but then he also claims he was falsely accused of raping a white woman in Chicago. He claims he is innocent which is exactly what you’d expect of a guilty person. He believes the snotty clerk chick at the Alien Registration Office will be impressed by the story. Yeah, good luck with that Wesley.
“When they play the joint though the median age is 92 and their brisk rambunctious music provokes a certain unease among the regulars. ‘Who are the wogs? And where’s my G&T?’ the broad critical reaction.”
There are some other tubs of shit in the band who really don’t look that interesting to me. Fuck them.
Stanley tells the band he can get them a gig at the Old Ballroom at the Imperial Hotel. He’s been given the job of making the Imperial more fashionable and that they are very much part of that project. When they play the joint though the median age is 92 and their brisk rambunctious music provokes a certain unease among the regulars. “Who are the wogs? And where’s my G&T?” the broad critical reaction.
But that’s not the only response. Also in the audience are some young, sexually attractive and therefore worthwhile people. Bright young thing siblings Pamela Luscombe (Joanna Vanderham) and Julian Luscombe (Tom Hughes) might just have stepped out of Vile Bodies as might Sarah (Janet Montgomery), Pamela’s hot friend. They can’t get enough of the race music racing their way. Jazz connoisseur Mr Donaldson (Anthony Head) is similarly struck and is happy to tell the band that he will spread the word about them. “And get yourself a singer you stupid darkies!” he quips.
“I imagine John Goodman is going to kill that skinny broad at some point – quite possibly by sitting on her, so there’s that to look forward to.”
It’s good advice. They audition and wind up with two singers who come as a package. One coffee, Jessie (Angel Coulby), one mocha, Carla (Wunmi Mosaku). Jessie can sing her ass off whereas Carla is a bit of a hack, much like on X-Factor when one half-decent one spills on stage with a tub of shit Louis Walsh forces her to wring the neck of for our viewing pleasure. Unlike on X-Factor they don’t get split up but instead both go through to the next round which in this case means they are in the band. Welcome aboard girls! Even you, Carla you shithead.
Before you know it they’ve got a regular gig at the Imperial, have royalty lining up to view them and enjoy the patronage of Mr Masterson (John Goodman) “one of the richest men in the world”. He certainly one of the fattest. In a brilliant piece of impromptu backscratching networking Louis helps Julian clear up the mess from a contretemps between Masterson and his anorexic aristocrat squeeze Hannah (Katherine Press). As a result Louis gets invited to one of Masterson’s picnics. The band, too if they fancy it. Where will this incredible rollercoaster ride take them next?
I can’t say but I know I’m on board for now. It’s a pretty slow moving opener and, as before, we establish early on that nothing that rattles the cage of the stuffy Brit like the liberating force of an American being so American. Chewy Eejit impresses as the bandleader, the toffs are all good value and a group of brothers turding around 1930s English society bringing jazz to the nobs is an intriguing enough story for me to want to know more. I imagine John Goodman is going to kill that skinny broad at some point – quite possibly by sitting on her, so there’s that to look forward to.
The verdict on Dancing on the Edge: George Melly doesn’t care about black people.
Marks out of 10: 7.5
Imagined: Monday 4th February 2013