Go To The Devil And Shake Yourself

Fri 10th – Sun 19th August 2012


Helena Blackstone

at 10:06 on 17th Aug 2012



This was my first time sitting through a musical set relating the history of the papacy up until the end of the 14th century, so I was open to the evening being one of any kind. Joe Murphy tells us that he normally performs with a band who could not make it to Edinburgh, so instead he has Polly MacLean accompanying on voice and melodeon - a small handheld keyboard with a tube in which to blow into and produce the sound. The venue is difficult - the air conditioning sound won’t turn off, something in the kitchen keeps making grinding noises and the concert happening upstairs is just about the loudest pub performance I have ever heard, but Joe apologises charmingly and we move on.

There is more to the papacy than I thought - this subject is full of gory stories of endless orgies, outrageous laws and unending wars - things that could only happen in a faraway Hobbesian world. The lyrics are amusing and I find myself thinking that these guys should be hired by Horrible Histories (an unoriginal thought as I see from the flyer). But then I find out that the orgies really are endless. This is a chronology of the popes in four parts. I’m not sure how I feel about this, especially with music being less than variable. Polly’s voice is lovely though - I wish I could have heard more of it. However, after the four-part chronology things do change up a bit. Joe moves from the guitar to the piano. He has already apologised for the noisy restaurant next door, so when I hear a small shrieking noise I assume it is that, but when it repeats exactly the same I realise it is Polly making owl noises with a small speaker.

I asked for his interpretation of one of the lines ‘Go to the Devil and shake yourself’. From his response ‘Just let go and give yourself to the Devil’ I gather it must be pretty much a positive message, something like Willow Smith’s philosophy of ‘whip your hair back and forth’. I leave having learnt a lot. The show would have benefited hugely if a large audience were joining in with the chorus, tankards of beer in hand to slosh to and fro with the music, but this happened to be a quiet night.


Lucinda Higgie

at 11:35 on 17th Aug 2012



If I see anything stranger than this before I leave Edinburgh, I will eat my EFR jumper. In 'Go To the Devil And Shake Yourself', Joe Murphy, accompanied by Polly Maclean's melodion-playing, harmonies, devil gestures, owl noises and jigging, performs 'the history of the first fourteen centuries of the papacy in song'. It's kind of great.

First up is 'Here Come The Popes: Parts 1-4'. It is worrying how quickly the endless list of incest, bestiality, orgies, rape, pillage and general hypocrisy stops becoming shocking: by the third song, Murphy's history has begun to feel like a long biblical genealogy with 'concubine' and 'flesh-eating babies from satanic intercourse' in the place of 'begat'. Murphy would do well to mix up the order of the show, and pair songs comprising chronology with some of his more focused, narrative ones to keep the audience losing focus.

Most of the songs were performed with guitar in a style that reminded me of Billy Bragg, but I liked the piano accompaniment the best. The lyrics are pretty ham-fisted ('when your smiles are outnumbered by your farts') and the tunes themselves aren't exceptional – many sit on one or two notes, and two or three guitar chords, attempting to cram in so much history that they are close to being plain recitations – but Maclean and Murphy's voices harmonise nicely. Murphy's voice is extremely variable: at some points it seemed extremely powerful and overstrained at others.

Though the songs are meant to be comic, at times the pair seem very earnest. The audacity of the show is admirable, but a considerably larger and drunker audience would give this show the lift it needs and give it its full, bizarre effect.


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