Turbine Theatre – until 7 December 2019
Reviewed by Donna Easton
I am not sure if it was the very essence of the Turbine theatre itself, the vinyl clad set, the battered leather sofa on which I sat, the faint smell of incense in the air or the fact that I had devoured my copy of Nick Hornby’s novel in my teens but on entering the space, I was catapulted back to London in the 90s.
The design team perfectly created that vibe before an actor stepped on stage but when they did enter Rob’s music shop where most of the action was set, we were introduced to a bunch of beautifully crafted characters that made me smile instantly. Now, I am a lover of musical theatre but to fully enjoy this particular genre, we always have to suspend our disbelief and just go with it but as the cast embarked on their first routine and a confused looking Rob mouthed, ‘What the f*ck?’ to the audience I knew I could relax as this was a musical with a clear difference.
The actors seemed to deliver most of the musical numbers with their tongues firmly in their cheeks producing a unique dialogue for the audience and made the sincere moments all the more engaging. The feeling of being part of their gang was not only beautifully created by the informal first few rows (bean bags and sofas) but Rob’s asides and knowing looks to the audience were always perfectly delivered. Often as though chatting to one of his mates with laser focus on his chosen audience member and smashed down the fourth wall and brought us in to his shop, his flat and his life.
Oliver Ormson’s Rob should (on paper) be a character we dislike with his questionable morals and treatment of women but Vikki Stone’s beautiful ‘Brit’icising of the script and Oliver’s impeccable delivery made me root for him like a good friend who you just want to get their act together. My feminist alarm bells were definitely ringing at times but I just couldn’t help but want him to sort himself out and get the girl.
I felt like I had, at some point of my youth, encountered each and every one of the characters. The boys seemed to have the stronger ‘character’ roles and the girls were given the more realistic parts which were all incredibly real and believable. Carl Au’s Dick was an adorable misfit and I was willing him to get together with Natalie Imbruglia loving Anna, gorgeously played by Rosie Fletcher. Robbie Durham’s Barry was one of those guys that you have in your group that drives you crazy but you love him. I was clapping and grinning madly at his final song beautifully flanked by Jessica Lee and Lauran Rae.
Ian was hilariously played by Robert Tripolino. The character is written with such insight and must have been a joy of a role to play. Robert certainly had me laughing hysterically at ‘Ian’s Here’, ‘Ian’s Eulogy’ and his appearance in Rob’s nightmare was a particularly laugh out loud highlight!
Shanay Holmes’ Laura was a particularly believable character and I wanted the best for her and she played a woman in the throes of emotional turmoil beautifully. Bobbie Little’s Liz was the friend you want to have on your side and both women played their roles impeccably and their voices were soulful, strong and fierce and they provided a beautiful contrast of realism among the other characters.
Watching Eleanor Kane’s Marie and her beautiful tone was like being at an intimate gig. The duet with Shanay Holmes gave the action a moment of perfect stillness and then her matter of fact treatment of Rob was again a lovey dose of realism.
One of my favourite moments had to be the arrival of Bruce Springsteen played by Joshua Deever. I loved his stage presence and Rob’s transition during this song was a joy to watch.
Tom Jackson Greaves, direction and choreography is inspired. The choreography seemed to fit each character and moved the narrative along perfectly.
In summary, I loved hanging out with this group of vinyl obsessed characters on a Friday night and went home feeling nostalgic, warm and happy. A quirky joy of a musical. I loved it!