Have Box Will Travel is Blacktronica founder Charlie Dark's sizzling new one man show. Directed with a relaxed intelligence by Benji Reid HBWT chronicles Dark's journey to adulthood and a touching realisation of what it is to be truly human. Beginning with boyhood DJ fantasies whilst his ever-patient mother bellows through the bedroom door, Dark introduces us to his first love, the deliciousness of vinyl. As a young boy Charlie is believable and endearingly foolish. The description of a teenage party complete with underage smoking, drinking and some unwanted Heavy Metal had me splitting my sides with welcome recognition. As did his unsuccessful attempts to out dance Sweaty Tony at the legendary Dingwalls
His characterisation of his mother allows us to see the rapid quest to find himself through caring and resigned eyes. On her son's new attire she says "he's taken to wearing camouflage at all times. It's like living in the house with a bush!" The warmth of this relationship is made even more apparent when he goes to visit his father in Ghana who appears as a distant figure communicating his love mainly through his pocket.
Anyone who recalls the delirious history of London's pirate radio will relish the descriptions of the “right hand side of the dial' and “stations sandwiched between stations”.
There is so much humour in the first two thirds of the show I would defy anyone not to fall in love with Charlie Dark and his Tigger-like enthusiasm for the music. "I come home, put my headphones on and immerse myself in sound” he says.
The tale becomes increasingly poetic as he describes his search for illusive records hidden in “dark basements filled with other people's dreams” and the sheer orgiastic delight when he asks “have you ever seen 1000 records in one room?” Dark has that rare and deft gift of making the universal personal and the personal universal.
His dreams of becoming a Super DJ are ultimately unsatisfying, the more elite the gig the less responsive the audience “a private function where no one cares about the music” leading finally to the Attica Blues signing by Sony Records and the damning realisation that he is “fish-food in a tank full of piranhas” and a shattering mental breakdown. Dark’s violent scratching away at the surface of a record with a kitchen knife is symbolic of the self harm possible after such an enormous betrayal.
As a moving homage to self acceptance HBWT will break your heart. But, as he tells us, it is all welcome “the breakdown was a gift, it meant I didn't have to be that character anymore”. Charlie Dark teaches us how important it is to be ourselves, and how music will keep us alive when little else will.