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Richard Tyrone Jones Has A Big Heart
Published on Saturday, 16 July 2011

4 stars

Underground Venues - Barrel Room
15-16 Jul, 5:30pm-6:30pm; 17 Jul, 8:30pm-9:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

It's perfectly true: Richard Tyrone Jones does have a big heart. The show's title is a slightly dubious pun, referencing the sudden cardiac dilation which almost killed him; but by giving so much of himself to this entrancing poetic monologue, he shows he has a real openness of spirit, too.

It's rare to meet someone who describes himself, unselfconsciously, as a poet - but that's exactly what Tyrone Jones does, and it's exactly who he is. His story's interspersed with verse, which range from sonnets to a limerick, but all fit seamlessly into the narrative without artifice or contrivance. Mind you, the surrounding monologue is lyrical too; it may have the air of a fireside chat, but there's nothing off-the-cuff about this impeccable wordsmith.

Tyrone Jones' story is a highly personal one, told without a hint of self-indulgence.  Weeks after his 30th birthday, stricken by weakness and migraines, he found he had - as he put it - "the heart of an old man": inflamed and ineffective, for reasons still unknown. His theories on the cause are among the many comic themes woven through the script, which masterfully manages the listeners' mood as it oscillates between laughter and despair.  There's a terrible poignancy when he reads a poem written at his lowest ebb - and a precious affirmation in the final piece, which celebrates, if that's not too bizarre a word, the new perspectives granted by the fact he nearly died.

The whole show, in fact, is worthy of celebration... but it's my job to nitpick, so here we go.  When Tyrone Jones strayed - occasionally - from his natural poetic territory, I felt he was far less successful; a Lehrer tribute patter song left me wishing he'd just done it in simple verse, while some curious mime at the very start quickly grew tedious (though almost as quickly was over). Both felt like attempts to mix up the pace a bit, but the there's really no need; Tyrone Jones' mastery of cadence ensures there's already plenty of variety within his hour-long talk.

The monologue's messages are hardly subtle ones - look after yourself and love the life you have - but there's still a real vitality to hearing those themes from a man with such cause to understand them.  He was probably acting, but at times Tyrone Jones seems to move himself to tears - and there's no shame in saying that I felt teary too.  It is a big-hearted show, and a valuable lesson in making the most of whatever life throws at you.  Highly recommended.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.