Friday, 6 April 2018

REVIEW: Teddy at The Vaults

As you walk down Lancelot lane and into the Vaults, you begin the journey back in time to the 1950's, a post world war era when the East End of London was still showing the scars of the blitz. The burnt out old car, Variety posters and old ads for such products as Brillo, Camp coffee and Birds Custard help set the scene. The corrugated iron fencing shields us from the ruined buildings , and the Broken Hearts , a three piece band are playing music reminiscent of the era in the corner of the room. As the lights darken, a single white spot back lights the arrival of the Lead singer,  Johnny Valentine, and evocative picture is created of the start of the first teenager movement, the Teddy Boys.

The simple story set over a few days is of two young teenagers, escaping the oppression of the parents home into the world of the Teddy boys appears to be inspired by a single picture taken by the film director Ken Russell called "Your dreams" of a young Judy( as female teddy's were known) dressed a blazer and thin bow tie. We meet her, here called Josie and played with a delightful charm by Molly Chesworth taking care to dress before sneaking out of her house. Her preparations are mirrored by Teddy (an another excellent performance by George Parker). Together they take us through ruined churches, the coronet cinema, a pawnbroker, the streets of London to Teddy's night club where Johnny Valentine and the broken hearts are performing a secret gig. Through the journey we learn of the Teddy boys attitudes and culture. They make a lovely couple, a sort of English Bonnie and Clyde although Teddy's dream is to be a singer and Josie's is to go to California. 

The choreography by Tom Jackson Greaves is wonderful and the pair move beautifully around the stage, especially Josie and use the raised platform upstage well to differentiate locations and characters. The problem with the piece is that writer Tristan Bernays relies heavily on monologues of exposition to tell the two characters stories with them doubling up as the characters they meet. The two young actors do a wonderful job delivering these lines and creating the characters but the format restricts the dramatic narrative and interaction and becomes quite wordy. You longed for the band members to double up as the other characters and create more variety in the dramatic presentation.

The show is at its very best when the pair arrive at the club and dance to the
band in "Dance of the blues" and "Blue without you" and we see the blossoming of their romance and get a glimpse of what might have been their future. The original songs by Dougal Irvine capture the sound of the era but when at the end the band burst into a concert performance of actual classics of the time you instantly forget the new ones. This performance ends with a joyous celebration of the music including "Rock around the clock", "Great balls of Fire", "Hound dog" and "Johnny B Goode" which sends the audience home humming those tunes!

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Unreserved | Price of ticket: £14
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