What do you get if you put together old time music hall songs and modern hip hop?
A brilliant mash up, thanks to Ida Barr.
The pensioner singer who raps like a teenager is the comic creation of actor Christopher Green.
Think of a cousin of Hinge and Brackett, or Dame Edna Everage in a tatty Edwardian dress with an ostrich-feather headdress. Or, in another example, Marie Lloyd meets Missy Elliott.
Ida will be appearing at Summer in Southside – three weekends of free outdoor entertainment in and around Birmingham Hippodrome.
And for her Mash Up, she will be getting pensioners to sing with youngsters.
For example, the OAPs know the old song If You Were The Only Girl In The World, while the teens know Rihanna’s Only Girl (in the World).
Chris explains: “I’ve been making several visits up to Birmingham in the last few weeks to work with the elders’ groups and the youth groups.
“We’ve been working on five or six songs. Then on the day we will put them together before the performance.
“It’s great when they see how their bits fit together. The Rihanna one is my favourite, the parts fuse together really well, with me rapping on top.”
Chris is working with up to 100 singers and isn’t daunted by the challenge – he’s done it before with 400 people, in the rain, on the South Bank for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The aim of his Mash Up is to join together the generations in a real community event.
Chris says: “Ida has the ability to engage both young and old and everyone in between who might be passing. They’ll wonder what’s going on and hopefully stay to watch – then join in.
“There’s a very thin line between the participants and the audience, as I want everyone singing. People shouldn’t be worried that they will be picked on and humiliated – that’s not what Ida’s all about, she’s very encouraging.
“I’m a huge believer in the uplifting power of a communal singsong.
“I like getting everyone to sing Jerusalem because we all kind of know it but nobody knows all the words. But it’s a fun singsong, it’s not a flawless performance of Verdi’s Reqiuem.
“There’s also nothing like a big communal conga line, disappearing off into the distance.”
Ida Barr was actually a real person, a music hall star who died nine months before 46-year-old Chris was born.
“I was just drawn to her, I didn’t really know what I was doing when I decided to resurrect her.
“She was married to another music hall performer called Gus Harris, who is Anita Harris’s uncle.
“I happened to bump into Anita at a variety performance and introduced myself. She said ‘You’re Auntie Ida!’.
“She had read about me and was really intrigued. She was pleased, she said Ida was such a great performer and it was sad she wasn’t remembered, so at least I was keeping her spirit alive.”
Chris has also created spoof country singer Tina C, of whom Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen are fans.
He started out in showbiz as a researcher for controversial Channel 4 late-night show The Word, after a tutor on his drama degree told him he would never get acting work with red hair.
The Word became infamous for its ‘I’ll do anything to be on television’ section, in which people ate worms, bathed in maggots, licked sweat off fat people and kissed old people.
“It was a pretty extraordinary time and I have to say I did some things I’m not especially proud of,” remembers Chris.
“For the first series I was a music researcher, which was cool. Jo Whiley was the music producer, booking bands like Nirvana that I looked after.
“Then I was a film researcher doing more of the trashy stuff. I remember having to find a tour bus full of Japanese tourists. I kidnapped them by bribing the tour guide and got them to sit in the studio.
“I was also implicated in getting Oliver Reed drunk before he went on as a guest. It was a bit of a stitch-up and I wasn’t happy about it.
“But working on The Word was certainly an experience.”
Chris is returning to the Hippodrome at Christmas to star in The Frozen Scream, which he’s co-written with novelist Sarah Waters.
It tells the chilling story of a group of friends stranded in an abandoned lodge in the heart of winter.
Offering an alternative to pantomime, the show will be staged in January in the Hippodrome’s studio.
Chris says: “I’ve worked in Birmingham a lot and I’m delighted to be returning, especially as I am great friends with Janice Connolly, aka Barbara Nice.
“We met at a gig in Brighton. I asked her if she was going to do her budgie material, because if so Ida wouldn’t talk about her budgie. The other male comedians were looking at us oddly. It wasn’t the sort of conversation they were used to!”
* Ida Bar’s Mash Up takes place at the Arcadian on Saturday August 23 at 1pm and 3pm.
Three weekends of summer fun
There's more fun to be had at Summer in Southside this year, as two weekends turn into three.
Every weekend from August 9 is packed full of free outdoor performances around Birmingham Hippodrome.
More than 30 companies featuring more than 100 local, national and international artists will transform the city’s Southside district around Hurst Street and the Arcadian.
They offer everything from drama and dance to circus and street theatre, from music and hip hop to aerial artistry.
Last year’s festival, held over two weekends, drew audiences of more than 12,000. Now it’s even bigger, culminating in a special Bank Holiday Jamboree.
Peter Knott, area director of Arts Council England, said: “The programme promises unique and ambitious productions, from Coventry-based Talking Birds theatre company to the internationally acclaimed Wired Aerial Theatre.
“I’m sure there’ll be something everyone will enjoy.”
SUMMER IN SOUTHSIDE HIGHLIGHTS
Saturday, August 9
Talking Birds: The Cricketers
Join the Cricketers from Coventry as they prepare for a spot of top notch urban sporting activity. This piece will amuse audiences with their take on the game of cricket. Hippodrome Square, 1pm, 2.30pm, 5pm, 6.30pm
Highly Sprung: Traveling Treasury
Traveling Treasury is a magical storytelling experience that takes place in a caravan. Audiences are taken on a journey through sound, visual paper creations and animated story telling. Inge Street, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm
Corey Baker Dance: A Haka Day Out
Last seen at International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014, visitors to Southside will have the chance to join New Zealander Corey Baker as he leads an exhilarating tribal Haka (war dance) workshop with native Maori performers. Arcadian, 1pm, 4.30pm
Highly Sprung: The Roswells
The Roswells are an alien family who visit planet Earth as a holiday destination and want to discover what humans are like. Look out for the creations of the Coventry-based company as they pop up anywhere on Southside.
Come Vinyl with Me
Anyone who wants to be a DJ superstar now gets their chance. Participants are invited to turn up with three of their own records, put their name on the board and await their chance to impress. Strictly vinyl only but anything goes music-wise. Arcadian, 6pm - 9pm
Saturday August 16
Close Act Theatre: iPuppet
This street theatre company from the Netherlands combines dance, music and circus, as five performers operate giant puppets with large eyes.
Heights: Mattress Circus
Nicolaj Munk, Tiago Fonseca and Daniel Goncalves are clown acrobats, setting their show in and around a mattress. Arcadian, 1.30pm, 5pm & Hippodrome Square, 3.30pm
Wet Picnic: The Birthday Party
The Birthday Party features Wet Picnic’s trademark style of clowning and buffoonery in this colourful focusing on Malcolm’s 40th party. Be prepared to be invited! Arcadian, 2pm, 4pm
De Fakto Company: Le Petit Bal 2 Rue
Two dancers pull out all the stops as they audition for legendary French singer and actor, André Bouvil. With a mix of contemporary dance and hip hop, it tips an wink to the classic French movies of the 50s and 60s. Inge Street, 2pm, 5pm
Saturday August 23 and Sunday August 24
Candoco Dance Company
They are performing a double bill of Studies for C & Two For C by Javier De Frutos. Candoco Dance company is a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, whose double bill is set to traditional Mexican Ranchera music and the performers wear Mexican wrestling masks. Hippodrome Square, 1.30pm, 4.30pm, Saturday only
Wired Aerial Theatre: Straw Dog
Following their outdoor performance in Birmingham of As The World Tipped, Wired Aerial Theatre return to perform Straw Dog, featuring bungee-assisted dance and the grace and power of flight. Loft Lounge Car Park, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5pm
Visitors to Southside will be serenaded by opera singers as members of Oyster Opera break into song just about anywhere. They combine beautiful singing with having fun and a good dose of audience participation.
Icarus: Rugby Player Duo
From the creators of the ever popular Roo’d (lifesize kangaroos), Icarus bring Rugby Players. Balancing on powerskip stilts, these giant bouncing characters reach impressive heights. Hurst Street, 2pm, 4.30pm, Saturday only
Southpaw Dance Company: Faust
Special evening performance of Goethe’s Faust, from a company which combines breaking, lindy hop, Charleston and physical theatre – and fire. Hippodrome Dock, Saturday 10pm & Sunday 9pm
Tangled Feet uses clowning, dance and physical theatre to tell the stories of five very different mothers. Company Chameleon is powerful dance duet performed by Anthony Missen and Kevin Edward. Tangled Feet, Inge Street, Saturday 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm. Company Chameleon, Inge Street, Sunday, 2.30pm, 5.30pm