The Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company
In association with UK Arts International presents
The Theatre Royal Stratford East and UK Arts production of
The Harder They Come
By Perry Henzell
Nottingham Playhouse to Saturday 22th May 2010
Matinee Thursday 20th May 1.30pm Saturday 22nd May 2.30pm,
Runs 2h 10min. One interval
TICKETS: 0115 9419419
Review: Jen Mitchell 17th May 2010
A real feel-good musical with a raw edge.
Even before the opening, the audience mingles with characters from the show out in the foyer. As the auditorium fills, the Jamaican community hall begins to fill with people quietly going about their business. It is as if we have wandered into the community centre by mistake. The rapport is built and sympathies established before any action takes place.
Which may account in part why we fall so heavily for the country boy Ivan, who, with his easy charms, naïve enthusiasm and raw musical talent, arrives in Kingston with no experience, no money and no job.
The play opens on Ni-Night, a traditional Jamaican wake held on the ninth evening following a death. People gather together to remember the deceased with singing, praying and drinking. This is the Ni-Night for Ivan and the play then unfolds retrospectively, telling the story of his life from his arrival in Kingston to his untimely death.
The events are based on the real life anti hero Ivanhoe ‘Rhygin’ Martin, a notorious criminal in 1940’s Jamaica, whose acts of defiance against the police and authority made him a hero to the poverty stricken residents of Jamaica.
The modern take on Ivan is redeemed through his music and it is the defense of his fans that earns him the people’s respect and their loyalty.
This action is set against a musical backdrop of ska and reggae sounds, with a soundtrack running through most of the action, imperceptibly moving the emotions and bringing action and audience with along with it. At the point of Ivan’s brutal beating at the hands of the police, he is seen dragging himself along the stage and using the microphone to pull himself up. As he does so, the energy of the music heals him and he emerges as full blown reggae star.
The whole cast give outstanding musical performances – from the incredible range of the seen it all Pedro (Marlon King) to the high octane preacher (Victor Romero Evans).
Church and state, both seen as the oppressors, are pitted against the people and their battle is epitomized by Ivan’s relationship with the Preacher, as Ivan falls in love with Elsa – the preacher’s ward. Such is the Preachers hatred of Ivan that even a man of the cloth is prepared to sacrifice an innocent baby to see the young hero captured.
Whilst morals and attitudes are explored, as is love and loyalty, it is not an evening to consider any sort of high ground as this is probably the most high-energy, sound blasting, gutsy piece of theatre I have seen in a long time and surely one that makes everybody want to get up and dance.
Ivan: Matthew J Henry
Elsa: Alanna Leslie
Pedro: Marlon King
Pinky: Janine Johnson
Miss Daisy: Joy Mack
Hilton: Chris Tummings
Ray Pierre: Craig Stein
Preacher: Victor Romero Evans
Precious: Nataylia Roni
Longa/Numero Uno: Derek Elroy
Sarge: Dermot Daly
Jose: Lateef Lovejoy
Photographer: Kirk Patterson
Miss Brown: Jacqui Dubois
Hilton All Stars
Co-Musical Director and Drummer: Perry Melius
Co-Musical Director and Bass Guitar: Wayne Nunes
Keyboards: Darren Benjamin
Keyboards/Drums: Adrian ‘Kenz’ McKenzie
Guitar: Peter Lee
Guitar: Neil Charles
Keyboards: Carl Nembhard
Writer: Perry Henzell
Directors: Kerry Michael and Dawn Reid
Choreographer: Jackie Guy
Music Supervisor: Geraldine Connor
Lighting Designer: Jo Joelson
Sound Designer: Simon Deacon