Tag Archives: Tim Firth

REVIEW: The Band – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Firstly, a fact needs to be stated that this is not the Take That story. The words Take That are never uttered in the entire two and a half hours of the show. You would also be mistaken for thinking that the boyband recruited from the BBC reality show Let It Shine were the crux of the production, and while they feature large, they are far from the centre of the story.

Instead, it’s a story of five friends that spans 25 years. A story of growing up, love and loss, opportunity unfulfilled, of hope, peppered throughout with the hits of the biggest British boy band of the past quarter of a century. It is also more story with music rather than jukebox musical.

Writer Tim Firth clearly has the target demographic in his sights. The mature version of these 90s teens are the heart of the show. Take That the soundtrack to their lives. The pop culture references abound: Smash Hits posters on bedroom walls, Top of the Pops, Ceefax, cassette taping Top of the Pops, it unashamedly taps into the unquenchable thirst for nostalgia.

This is clearly a show of two halves: the central quartet of Heather (Emily Joyce), Rachel (Rachel Lumberg), Claire (Alison Fitzjohn) and Zoe (Jayne McKenna) are fine actresses with a wealth of talent, and it is only when the story fully centres on this quartet that it achieves any real depth. Tim Firth’s dialogue for the mature characters is utterly believable, it is less so for their teenage versions, where it is largely contrived and one-dimensional.

The quartet’s younger selves are played by Katy Clayton (Heather), Faye Cristall (Rachel), Sarah Kate Howarth (Claire) and Lauren Jacobs (Zoe) with Rachelle Diedricks as teenage pal Debbie. Their schoolgirl antics, while familiar, are a tad contrived and their diction is poor, rendering most of the lines a garbled mush. The first half also suffers from a strange selection of Take That songs that don’t exactly fit the narrative. With a back catalogue as fine as this, the choices seem plain odd.

‘The Band’ as played by Five to Five: A.J. Bentley, Nick Carsberg, Curtis T. Johns, Yazdan Qafouri, Sario Solomon prove just how good Take That were, and still are. These songs, while seeming easy to sing, just aren’t, and the quintet while having a solid go at it, never fully do the songs justice.

For anyone who has ever seen Take That live, the set design will look familiar. The production values of the band who are the producers of the show are replicated here. It’s big and bold and the stage is jam-packed with effects.

This show has had it’s fair amount of flak, its detractors have been many, but there’s a fundamental question to be asked: are they the target audience? I am pretty sure that the producers made no claims to enlighten or educate. Indeed, the programme notes say it’s a “love letter to the fans”. It’s intended for the Take That fandom, if you’re here and you’re not a fan of Take That, I’d question your choices. Sometimes theatre is made just to be entertaining. But, this reviewer is very much the target demographic, like most of the audience, knowing the words to every one of these tunes and willing this to be a joy, and while the second half was superior to the first, it ultimately doesn’t do enough to overcome its faults. I am sure The Band will be a satisfying night’s entertainment, a piece of pure escapism and nostalgia for many and it may fulfil its brief as ‘a love letter to the fans’, but for this audience member, there are more feelings of disappointment than delight.

Runs until 7 July 2018 | Image: Matt Crockett review originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub.


REVIEW: Our House – Festival Theatre, Edinburgh


This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at:

Book: Tim Firth

Music & Lyrics: Madness

Director: Peter Rowe

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

Striving to be more Blood Brothers than Jersey Boys, Tim Firth’s musical Our House based around the music of Madness, ultimately fails to fall into either camp. Neither dramatic play with music or full-blown jukebox musical it is an odd hybrid which sits uneasily between the two.

A cautionary story about the power of choice, it tells the story of Joe Casey who on the fateful night of his 16th birthday breaks into an empty luxury apartment to impress his girlfriend Sarah.  From here onwards we enter a parallel universe where we see the consequences of both his choices: in one world Joe escapes and prospers pursuing a life on the slightly less than legal side of the tracks and in the other he does the honest thing, surrenders to the police and ultimately lands up in a young offender’s institution. The story twists and turns (to its credit it resists taking a predictable path) and ultimately our young hero gets what he deserves. Shoe-horned into all of this are the songs of 80’s superstars Madness.

The company of actor musicians play both multiple roles and instruments onstage throughout and equip themselves with energy and commitment but there’s an overwhelming sense of something missing about the whole endeavour. The sound quality suffers from being dampened by the tiny and distractingly busy set perched on the huge Festival Theatre stage and struggles to reach the volume needed to fill this huge auditorium. The dampened sound also reflects the reaction that met the end of each set piece. No number ends emphatically enough to prompt spontaneous applause and on many occasions the actors launch straight into dialogue at the end of a song leaving no time for the audience to show any appreciation they feel it might deserve. It’s all a pity as the company work hard to engage the audience and their enthusiasm can’t be faulted. It’s a case of bad material happening to good people.

Alexis Gerred (Joe) is an amiable enough lead and he manages the quick changes required of the role with aplomb but he’s a bit lacking in the personality department to convincingly pull this off. Worthy of praise though is Daniella Bowen as girlfriend Sarah, convincing as the moral compass of the piece. However, one criticism must be made of the younger members of the ensemble, whose diction is less than crisp, leading to a universal tendency to mangle dialogue and render punchlines flat. However, Sean Needham and Rebecca Bainbridge as Joe’s parents, lend the show a much needed quality and gravitas, both are accomplished actors as well as musicians and their class shines through.

Despite a somewhat muted reaction throughout, the audience did give hearty applause at the end, though one can’t help think that it was for the hard-working cast rather than the material. The show should be applauded though for attempting to rise above the run of the mill jukebox musical fodder but it needs a clearer narrative and a more charismatic lead to pull it off.