By Jennie Orton
Becoming the pirate junkie
CALGARY — When I was 11 years old I put on my parents’ vinyl copy of The Beatles’ Abbey Road, and while the madcap refrain of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” delighted my madcap 11-year-old sensibilities, I knew I was going to be following the Fab Four gentlemen’s Magical Mystery Tour for as long as it ran. Deanna Jones had a similar experience at a wedding in Sudbury, Ontario when she was 12 years old with “Jumping Jack Flash.” It had an equally profound effect.
Jones and fellow Stones’ fan Cole Lewis combined their mutual fascination to craft the story of super-fan Mona, who decides to immerse herself in both the worship and persona of her favorite Stone: guitar player and resident immortal Keith Richards. The result is The Keith Richards One Woman Show, a study of fame, fans, and the finding of self.
The well-documented lore surrounding Richards since the Rolling Stones garnered their reputation in the ‘70s as rock and roll’s ghouls of mischief, fuels his deal with the devil in order to survive the antics and consumption he’s become infamous for.
“Hearing stories growing up about Keith Richards and his nine lives I have always been fascinated by his rise to fame, the celebrity, and the sort of clownish quality of him as a person. I thought it would be a really fun character to try to play around with,” says Jones.
But as Jones discovered through her growth as a fan and the evolution of the project, Richards is more than just the face of debauchery.
“There is something uninhibited about Keith Richards. His honesty and his background, this rock and roll hero, this pirate junkie. Always being honest about who he is and where he is from and not having any inhibitions about it.”
It is this spirit of finding oneself and discovering truth outside of legend that is at the heart of The Keith Richards Show. As Mona attempts to match Richards’ record of staying awake for nine days, she slips into a “dreamlike state” and absorbs deep into Richards. The result is a voyage into adoration and the search for meaning and heroics in art and rock and roll—a connection between those of us fascinated with art and those who create it.
“When people become these kinds of idols, this kind of celebrity, there is a reputation or expectation that you have this personal relationship with them. Because you can find out so much about that person because of the media and them being out there and the music.” Jones wanted to tap into this idea to endear the audience with Mona’s fixation.
For those of us who have become fixated on artists for having the exact right vibe to inspire us, this story speaks to the very real spirit of equalization art can have when it hits the right chords.
“People can relate to him, that rough around the edges thing, his ability to get away with stuff. I just feel like there is something people can empathize with him. He’s not out of reach,” adds Jones. “He’s lived life his own way. And he’s taken time to figure out who he is and he’s content and humble in his own flesh.”
So as the audience watches Mona try to fit into that flesh, they can relate to that feeling of wanting to tap into that steady sense of knowing, much like I did with that beautiful meandering B-side of Abbey Road, and find answers. And those answers often end up scary and not at all what we expected. The ultimate lesson, of course, is that you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.
The Keith Richards One Woman Show runs from Tues., Jan. 27 to Fri. Jan. 30 at the Royal Canadian Legion #1 starting each night at 8 p.m. and on Sat., Jan. 31 in the afternoon at 2 p.m.#1 Royal Canadian Legion, AB, Alberta, High Performance Rodeo 2015, Keith Richards, The Keith Richards One Woman Show