RUDY’S RARE RECORDS: Danny Robins (Co-created by Danny Robins and Lenny Henry)
Birmingham Rep Theatre
www.birmingham-rep.co.uk / 0121 236 4455
Runs: 2h 40m, one interval, till 4 – 20 September 2014
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 09 09 14
A heart-warming party in Broad Street.
RUDY’S RARE RECORDS is based on a R4 comedy series. For the most part this play is greatly successful; but its success is for quite different reasons than I was anticipating.
With Dudley super-comedy-hero, Lenny Henry in the lead it could be anticipated that the play would be a vehicle for his comedy talent. Far from it. The play, set in a run-down disc shop in the Handsworth part of Birmingham, is about social change, about a community of people coming of age (and suffering from the growing pains), and most of all, it’s a celebration of cultural richness. So this charmer of a play has a serious side.
It may be that the play wears its heart on its sleeve, but all the better for that. It goes directly to the hearts of us in the audience; we are only too happy to join in the party. Danny Robins and Lenny Henry, in telling the trials and tribulations of a group of old-style Jamaican and Trinidadian shopkeepers, have skilfully crafted their work; when you think it’s going sentimental it goes dark, when you’re sure it’s going dark it goes celebration.
Lenny Henry (Adam), far from being a comedic lead, gives the most generous of performances; he plays his comedy well, but offers the big comedy to the others. He is quiet, centred, and calmly in control. A powerful contrast to his elderly, irascible dad, Rudy, a wonderful, larger-than-life comedy performance from Larrington Walker. Jeffery Kissoon, as Clifton the elderly florist from next-door, and Lorna Gayle, Doreen, running the nearby laundrette (and with a fine singing style) complete the leading quartet in fine form.
The play has some sharp comedic comments, and Clifton’s description of his roof-top moment of English revelation is both funny and moving. Lenny Henry, as Adam, takes control in the second half, and comes into his splendid own.
The second half could do with a bit of nipping and tucking to bring in under firmer control, but its tendency to ramble a bit does not detract from the over-all feel really good factor. And the fact that the iron ball of demolition transforms into a spinning mirror ball sums it all up nicely.
Lenny Henry: Adam
Larrington Walker: Rudy
Jeffery Kissoon: Clifton
Joivan Wade: Richie
Lorna Gayle: Doreen
Natasha Godfrey: Tasha
:Paulette Randall: Director
Libby Watson: Designer
Mark Jonathan: Lighting Designer
Joseph Roberts: Musical Director
Dan Hoole: Sound Designer
Brett Turg: Fight Director
Jackie Guy: Choreographer