Violinist plays for laughs

Comic violinist Adrian Garratt will perform in character as Sid Bowfin.
Comic violinist Adrian Garratt will perform in character as Sid Bowfin.PHOTO: ACT 3 INTERNATIONAL

Sometimes comic violinist Adrian Garratt does a funny thing.

He starts playing his violin without removing the sound dampener used to keep the instrument quiet while warming up backstage.

"I have to take it off and leave it on the floor. It is funny, but I didn't mean to do it," the London-based musician says during a telephone interview.

Garratt, 44, performs here from Saturday at the Drama Centre Black Box in his alter ego, the manic violinist Sid Bowfin.

The show is presented by local children's theatre specialist Act 3 International and runs until March 12.

  • BOOK IT/ CRAZY CLASSICS WITH SID BOWFIN

  • WHERE: Drama Centre Black Box, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

    WHEN: Saturday to March 12, 9am weekdays, 10.30am and 2.30pm weekends, except Feb 27, March 1 (9.45am) and March 2 (10.45am)

    ADMISSION: From $28, via Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

It marries classical favourites such as Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Pachelbel's Canon with comic patter and audience interaction. It is pitched as a fun introduction to classical music for the whole family.

Comic classical musicians are a novelty in Singapore, though Polish troupe the MozART Group performed here last November. However, there is a tradition going back to Charlie Chaplin's The Vagabond in 1916.

Garratt says: "Classical music is generally seen as such a staid art form and dull, any juxtaposition of comedy with that is quite funny and striking.

"There are people who want to sit back in the concert hall and listen with their eyes closed, but others want a visual spectacle."

He takes music quite seriously. Apart from his solo act, he leads the London Phoenix Orchestra and is a resident musician in London's Harefield Hospital, where he plays to patients. The freelance work lets him share childcare duties with his wife, who is a theatre director. They have two young sons.

Garratt studied violin while growing up in Wiltshire, England, and led the county youth orchestra. He continued playing with youth orchestras in London while reading economics at university.

After graduating, he held office jobs while busking at Covent Garden. In 1996, he joined the professional string group, the Sigma String Quartet, and stayed with them for six years.

There is an element of theatre to busking, "if you don't have stage presence, you're not going to get any money", he says, but the idea to create a show came when he and his friends went busking in Edinburgh during the famous Fringe Festival.

Passers-by thought they were promoting an indoor performance, so they came up with one. The theatrical troupe Pluck was formed in 2002 and toured Scotland, Italy, Finland, Australia, the United States - and even Singapore in 2008.

Pluck is an obvious name for a troupe started by a violinist, but what about Sid Bowfin? Is it a play on musical terms?

No, Garrat says. It is named after his childhood pet, a goldfish named Sid, and a lesser-known species of fish, the bowfin.

Expect more surprises when the curtain rises on Saturday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'Violinist plays for laughs'. Print Edition | Subscribe