Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

West End boys / North London Catholic girls ...

Back to theatre with two revivals. MOJO now, and ONCE A CATHOLIC booked for January .... both are set in the 1950s. MOJO is a ferocious play, first seen in 1996, set in 1950s Soho, it looks and sounds very lurid, that that interesting cast of 6 current actors work their socks off too. Ben Whishaw in particular is electric in that 50s teddy boy outfit and big quiff. The dialogue may be obscene (its not a play for the squeamish) but plays like jazz riffs - as the cast of 6 do justice to Jez Buttrerworth's text. As The Daily Telegraph says: 
The action is set in 1958 in a seedy Soho club. It’s a big night, for the venue has just discovered a new teenage rock-and-roll sensation called Silver Johnny and down in the club the owner, Ezra, is doing a deal with a showbiz bigshot called Mr Ross. Part of the play’s daring, and it is a trick I suspect this magpie playwright pinched from Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, is that we never see these two shady impresarios. Instead we but just hear about them from two minor functionaries in the office upstairs, played in a superbly comic double act by Grint and the motor-mouthed Mays, who at one stage physically vibrates with excitement. But everything goes terribly wrong. The following day Ezra’s body, which has been sawn in half, is discovered in two dustbins at the back of the club. And the powerful Mr Ross appears to have seized Johnny for himself.

It is the combination of strong plotting and zinging dialogue that makes this play so addictive and disconcerting. And as well as the stunning turn from Mays and Grint, whose initial jubilation gives way to mounting terror, there is a superb performance from Whishaw, who brings a drop-dead arrogance and a chilling touch of the psycho to the late club-owner’s abused son, Baby. Colin Morgan is both wonderfully funny and desperately poignant as the club’s dim-witted cloakroom attendant, while Brendan Coyle, fresh from Downton Abbey, plays a devious heavy with terrifying authority. 
 MOJO is at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London until January 25.

I did see the original 1977 production of ONCE A CATHOLIC which was a popular hit at the time and ran for over 2 years at the Wyndhams Theatre. This new production is at the rather smaller Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, North London - I have not been up that way in decades - and directed by actress and now director Kathy Burke. 
Willesden, 1957. A convent girls’ school. Bad habits… and boys.
The nuns at Our Lady of Fatima preach chastity and diligence as the swinging sixties approach.
Final exams loom. The day of reckoning is nigh. But for the girls in class 5A, their last year in uniform is set to be one of discovery of the less holy kind…

The fun here is the wickedly funny dialogue in Mary O'Malley's play, as we follow the girls both at the school and outside. All the girls are called Mary, as we focus on 3 of them: dopey Mary Mooney being the main one.  
It lampoons the strict teachings of the Catholic church, which the girls have to learn by rote and recite like parrots when the priest and nuns - all nearly demented in their fanatic beliefs - demand. The nuns though don't seem to realise how stupid and vicious they are. Being set in the 1950s of course this is all before the recent scandals engulfed the church -back then priests and nuns were objeyed and often terrorised their charges. The fun here is in the relentless influence the church and the nuns have over the girls, even the smart ones who plan their own lives once they leave the convent school. It is nice to see the play back and I will be looking forward to it, in early January.

No comments:

Post a Comment