On tour after Wimbledon
Willy Russell's gritty musical is a tragedy about twin brothers who are separated at birth and grow up on opposite sides of the track; one dirt poor and rough with only broken toys and not enough to eat, the other in middle class comfort where luxuries abound. It's one of the most successful West End musical and has garnered awards on both sides of the Atlantic, and now it's come to Wimbledon.
It was written in the 1980s when Thatcherism was at its height and unemployment was rife. Russell doesn't pull any punches on the detrimental effects of poverty combined with ignorance and superstition. But it's not all doom and gloom, there are plenty of happy and funny times as well.
This latest version stars Marty Pellow and Maureen Nolan who both played these roles in a West End production. He's the creepy narrator with an unnerving insight into the minds of the other characters. Maureen is the heroine Mrs Johnson, who moves from carefree young girl in pretty teenage dancing clothes to single parent wrapped in a grubby pinafore, with more children than she can afford to keep. Mrs Johnson is a great character and Maureen, who obviously knows the role well, brings her to life; a loving, caring mother who battles through the bad times to bring up her kids. She's contradiction, weak and irritating in so many ways and strong and admirable in others.
A special mention too for Sean Jones as Mickey, the twin that grew up in working class poverty. He goes from seven year old child, to teenager all the way through to adulthood beautifully. At times he's very funny, especially when he's a child and later as he starts to discover girls. He brings great depth to the character as he gets older and life becomes harder and more desperate.
The plot twists and turns, becoming more and more intriguing. Just as it seems it's all going well, things go off in a direction, and there are never any hints to how it's going to end.
Of course there are terrific songs throughout including Marilyn Monroe, Bright New Day and the beautiful and heart rending Tell Me it's Not True.
It's great theatre and a smashing production (at New Wimbledon Theatre, until September 12).
By Penny Flood
September 10, 2015