CBC's Ron Robinson on The Williamson Playboys at the Winnipeg Fringe
takes a good 30 to 45 seconds for this show to start... and that's because
old dad, Rufus Williamson, has to use his inverted tuba as a walker to wheeze
his way to his seat. His son Cecil Jr. with a ukelele like instrument in
hand joins him.
are the Williamson Playboys and they aim to tear your playhouse down,
if they can remember why they wanted to do it in the first place.
Bates and Doug Morency are a hoot. I was giggling from the get go and the
boys turned it up a notch by launching into a short memory of Mussolini,
he was a snappy dresser you know, and then shared one of their tuneful ditties
dedicated to Il Duce. "We came down on the wrong side of the argument
that time," is how Rufus sums it up.
They've written nigh on 70,000 songs or so. Impossible you say? Ahhh, but Rufus is 164 while Cecil Jr. is a spry 144. Never heard of them? The woman in the seat next to me had wondered before the show if they were copying the real group, but a little research in our CBC Library and on the Internet suggests these characters sprang, alright shuffled, fully formed from the actors foreheads. She may have been thinking of Sonny Boy Williamson, no relation I think, although I could have asked them.
Part of the show involves taking questions from the audience, and then riffing on them in both memory and song. This is high risk fringing of course, but the wrinklies pull it off. And you can see they're having fun doing it.
Not all their songs are winners, but they have a sure fire hit with one titled, I Wanna Die, that includes the lyric , "Grim Reaper come and keep you company." Now that was the bit I heard on day one when Pauline and I got fried listening to the performers at the free stage giving us the old two minute promo. That put us on to several shows we hadn't considered, so there's a free Fringe tip for next year.
Almost as good as the 2,000 year old man skits by Reiner and Brooks, the boys are a leetle sour about their lack of fame. Pissed is how Cecil Jr. put it and Rufus added his own colourful views. They claim to have invented, Jazz, Blues and Cajun music back when music was "nifty" using notes like "n" and "I" and musical notation paper had an extra line or two.
In a word laconic, yup, and constantly grumbling how they've been ripped off by other musicians. For example they claim to have written Candle in the Wind 1914, as a tribute to that nonentity that set the world ablaze, Arch-Duke Francis Ferdinand.
Highly recommended, and if you go...ask why Rufus named his son Cecil Jr.
Rating: FOUR STARS