The teenage dreams of youth proving nothing more than balloons waiting for life to pop them, as best friends Rachel, Claire, Heather and Zoe discover in The Band.
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THE PLAYHOUSE, Greenside Place
Told in flashback, the action of Tim Firth’s collaboration with Take That opens with the middle-aged Rachel, a wholly engaging and immensely likable Rachel Lumberg, recalling her early years and love of ‘The Band’.
Instantly, we are transported back to 9 September 1993. A Thursday, it’s 7pm and the 16-year-old Rach, a warm performance from Faye Christall, is settling down to watch Top Of The Pops.
Enter the winners of BBC TV’s Let It Shine as The Band, quickly followed by Rach’s best mates, played with infectious youthful high-energy by Sarah Kate Howarth, Lauren Jacobs and Katy Clayton, along with Rachelle Diedericks, as Debbie.
As their story unfolds, they quickly work their way through hit after hit.
By the time they get to It Only Takes A Minute Girl, hands are in the air, clapping along.
The response to the call out ‘Let me hear you scream...’ is everything you might imagine.
That said, it isn’t until the four mature friends take to the stage that the this production is lifted beyond the ordinary.
Indeed, the marketing of The Band does it a huge disservice. This isn’t the Take That story, nor is it a vehicle for a TV talent search.
Those ‘discoveries’ are the weakest link in the chain. With occasional tuning issues they bounce about the stage with self-aware awkwardness.
What The Band is... well, it’s a tale of friendship and of coming to terms with love and loss, a beautiful heart-warming piece of theatre about real people.
Emily Joyce as Heather gives a wonderfully layered performance as does Jayne McKenna in the role of Zoe.
As Claire, Alison Fitzjohn is comedy gold, her innate understanding of pathos tugging at the heart-strings.
Lumberg, meanwhile, is glue that holds it all together.
As the action barrels towards an unexpectedly emotional climax, the anthemic Rule The World sees hundreds of mobile phone held aloft, transforming the auditorium into a twinkling sea of lights.
Fitting, as these ladies really do shine. You’ll never forget these awesome performances.
Until Saturday 14 July