Monday, 3 December 2007

Girls Behind - Tour

Girls Behind by Louise Roche
New Wimbledon Theatre – Tour
Directed by Jack Randle
Review by Ann Bawtree

Can anything good come out of Milton Keynes? Answer A Certainly. The Milton Keynes Theatre Productions musical Girls Behind (no apostrophe) is delightful entertainment. Louise Roche has created three loveable young girls trying their luck as a singing group whose first gig is at the local Star Club. Over ten years they develop from gingham clad innocents into savvy women who eventually find their places in life, which are not what they imagined or aimed for. Lois, Sadie and Serena have in common their friendship and their music but also none too happy childhoods.

Sadie had dysfunctional parents, Lois is the poor little rich girl while Serena, was put into care at the age of seven for no discernable reason. Louise Roche also cleverly gives us at least nine other characters implied through the girls’ conversations.

The choice of songs is so appropriate that the story could have been written around them. Under the musical direction of Brendan McCormack they are not ear splittingly loud, despite the wardrobe sized amplifiers. Alex Eales simple set of the girl’s dressing room with the club’s stage denoted by the fall of a curtain of silver streamers is enhanced by Tony Simpson=s cruelly flat lighting which instantly changes to glamourous spots for the songs. The changes of costume speak volumes not only about the progress of the girls’ careers but also of their real lives. Look out particularly for the footwear!

The characters are portrayed clearly but subtly. We rejoice with Donna Hazelton’s Lois when she performs her happiest number with apparently uncontrolled leaping, worthy of Dawn French at her most exuberant. Yet we are sorry for her when her fortunes change and she tries to become hard. No wonder she did so well in Channel 4's Musicality. If, as the programme says, Maureen Nolan supported Sinatra in 1975 it was either as a babe in arms or she is the spirit of youth. If anyone believes that only Lulu can sing Shout they should think again. Sue Devaney’s depiction of Serena, the pint sized peacemaker, unsentimentally shows her character making a happy life out of emotional deprivation.

Jack Randle (director) keeps the show well paced and can move us on a week or five years by one character going off stage and coming back on again. With the simple but effective choreography of Debbie Young, this production would be less expensive than most to put on. All you would need is three very talented performers.

This is not necessarily a show for everyone, but is one you could take anybody to, however young or old. How refreshing to find a modern author whose rudest word is s**t and whose blasphemy is mild, if that is not a contradiction in terms. Anyone who enjoyed Mama Mia would enjoy Girls Behind and we sat though the whole evening with happy grins on our faces with only the occasional feeling of how sad... but true.
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