Soul food that's worth sharing, and second helpings
Roddy Doyle's Barrytown Trilogy evoked the mid-eighties and early nineties like few others, and with good reason – his books (and subsequent film versions) are pithy, gritty and honest accounts of family life in working-class Ireland. There's a scene in this superb comedy-drama set in Dublin which perfectly encapsulates the generation gap between articulate, aspirational young Jimmy Rabbitte (a brilliant Andrew Linnie) who puts a soul band together; and his feckless Da (Kevin Kennedy, fine). On one side, Jimmy sits on his bed, playing Sly and the Family Stone to his friends and linking the struggles of Ireland's young to black kids in the sixties US. On the other, his father sits in the living room, a slack-jawed piece of chewing gum watching telly and scratching his arse.
There are many similarly inspired scenes in Soutra Gilmour's brilliant set, juxtaposing a broken Ireland with the gaudy glamour of nostalgic musical performance.That Doyle himself is involved with this stage adaptation means the show retains its integrity and (often dark) humour. There's a real sense of anarchy and simmering violence throughout. Mickah (Sam Fordham) the skinhead only brought in as security because everyone is scared of him, provides psychosis and danger as the band perform live by using his head as percussion. Meanwhile the rehearsal of a stunning cover of Marvin Gaye's 'I Heard It through the Grapevine' is accompanied by mouthfuls of chips as the band huddle together to sing in their freezing hall.
The excellent ensemble sing and play as well as they act (props to Brian Gilligan's obnoxious yet talented Deco, but even more so the backing vocalists,sisters Amy and Leah Penston and Christina Tedders who harmonise like angels as potty-mouthed Natalie, Imelda and Bernie)and thankfully avoid the trappings of jukebox musicals by skilfully extracting the tensions of youthful folly, rather than that old cliche, 'musical differences'.
Theatre Royal Glasgow, until Fri 30 Dec.