Chasing stars: Chasing Bono @Sohotheatre

You’re never left doubting why Neil McCormick didn’t reach the mega stardom of his mate Bono from U2 in Chasing Bono. Bad luck and an endless search for that hit sound (rather than a unique one) seemed to mark his career. But in this contrived play you never really get the sense of his talent as a writer either. It’s current playing at Soho Theatre.

The premise is that Neil (played by Niall McNamee) is kidnapped by a ganster Danny Machin (Denis Conway). Ganster Danny wants him to write some favourable stories, while being held on some remote Irish farm. While doing so he recounts in flashback his short life and how his quest for stardom led to failure.

There’s not much insight into what makes a hit band here. Instead Neil comes across as a man obsessed by fame over anything else, including writing a decent song. Which makes it a bit difficult to care about the him or the story. And afterall if failure means you’re destined to become the chief music critic for a major national newspaper, life can’t be that bad.

The best parts are when the Conway and his muscle, Plugger (Ciarán Dowd), are on stage. They’re hilarious as they sit down Neil for the flashbacks as if they’re running a therapy session. But you also get the sense that they’re superfluous to the story that’s trying to be told.

There’s many characters here in this piece, including Bono (played uncannily by Shane O’Regan). But they only serve to confuse the focus of the piece.

Still it’s nicely acted. And there’s some great live music (including U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For). Max Dorey’s set is a delight doubling for a hideout and various flashback locations.

Directed by Gordon Anderson, Chasing Bono is at the Soho Theatre 19 January


Photos by Helen Maybanks

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