MODS AND ROX
by Paul Sirett.
New Wolsey Theatre Civic Drive IP1 2AS To 29 September May 2012.
Mon; Wed-Sat 7.45pm Tue 7pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 22 Sept 2.30pm.
Captioned 27 Sept.
Post-show Talk 20 Sept.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01473 295900.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 September.
Makeover for romantic drama hits the Suffolk pulse.
Evidently playwright Paul Sirett has a good nose for a story, though it’s unlikely he’d make the claim outloud in the presence of his protagonist Cyril, a Cyrano de Bergerac recycled for the mid-1960s.
Sirett brings Edmond Rostand’s romantic play about the 17th-century French poet and swordfighter into an era when Mods and Rockers were Britain’s youth tribes and where there was a convenient rock ‘n’ roll catalogue to help make a musical out of a drama.
His main adjustment is to start at the end – or some time after the end as Rox (the play’s sole female) visits Cyril in his hospital bed to trace the love-song which had made her fall for long-dead husband Cristiano in their good old young days The vast gap, though, does make it mysterious why someone’s just dropped a brick on Cyril’s head – a long-brewed revenge or a sign of continued controversy in his life, we’re not told which.
But the years make for an emotional clincher when the action finally returns from the youthful days of the early ‘60s and we know what Rox finally realises about the song’s authorship and how Cyril’s self-consciousness over his nasal prominence afflicted his otherwise abounding self-confidence.
An improvement on Rostand it isn’t. Yet it’s more of a story than a sequence of cues for rock numbers. And it’s intriguing to see how Sirett’s reinterpreted the original settings, especially in adapting the siege of the Gascony cadets as the Mods hide in a seaside cellar during one of the 1960s’ major Bank Holiday south-coast rumbles with the Rockers.
Unusually for a rock musical it comes to a quiet close, and the way several sections gained intense quiet from a full house who elsewhere were rocking fit to bust indicate the respect Sirett and the cast bring to the piece, and how well-judged Peter Rowe’s production is throughout.
The quiet end, by the way, while it held the audience, doesn’t signal the end of things, as a series of curtain-call numbers attest, their stratospheric decibel levels sending hearts out singing and ear-drums ringing into the Ipswich night.
Cyril: Peter Manchester.
James/Titch: James Haggie.
Rox: Francesca Jackson.
Martin/Rocker: Dan de Cruz.
Cristiano: Michael Woolston-Thomas.
Stevo/Rocker: Daniel Lloyd.
Baz/Rocker: Alex Parry.
Mugsy/Rocker: Tom Connor.
Dougie: Trevor Jary.
Director: Peter Rowe.
Designer/Costume: Mark Walters.
Lighting: Nick Richings.
Sound: Simon Deacon.
Musical Director: Ben Goddard.
Choreographer: Francesca Jaynes.