Guest contributor Paul T. Davies reviews Ross Sutherland: Stand By For Tape Back Up Colchester Arts Centre for Keep Colchester Cool.


Part of the fantastic Arts Centre’s Pay What You Can Afford Wonderful Wednesdays, this was an engaging, poignant and moving piece, beautifully performed by Ross Sutherland. After a hard-drive crash and a near death experience, he found himself house-bound with only one thing for company: an old videotape that once belonged to his granddad. That tape is presented to us, and the fragments on it include Ghostbusters, The Crystal Maze, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller, adverts, a football match and the first five minutes of Jaws. As Ross says, it was as if his Granddad thought he was only allowed one videotape for life, and kept recording over it!

The tape becomes life changing for Ross, seeing within it patterns that begin to define his life, and his monologue guides us through the experiences that connect him to the tape, and to his Granddad. Ross is an amiable, warm, honest host, and he talks frankly about his near death experience, his slide into depression and his family. Each fragment of TV on the tape is a metaphor for his theory of life, e.g., the soul destroying experience of working in a bank is tied in with an advert for said bank, replayed over and over as Ross raps about the emptiness of doing a job you hate. (And how we all remember the greed of the 80s through that snivelling youth on that advert!) Part of the joy of the show, of life itself, is not knowing what will be on the tape next and the nostalgia it triggers.

Ross admits that the piece isn’t complete yet, that there are remaining elements on the tape that haven’t spoken to him yet. However, the material so far offers a personal study into loss, his Grandfather accompanying us thought the show as much as the video does. In places the script is beautifully poetic, although there was perhaps a bit too much rap for me! When he concludes the piece by talking about letting go, you really feel he is unraveling the twisted knots of grief and is beginning to accept and move on. A wonderful thought for all of us.


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