“DIRTY DEBBIE, SHE’S ALWAYS READY!”
Until you head down to the Theatr Clwyd to see the sublime musical theatre feast ‘Junkyard’, this phrase won’t mean much to you.
If a disobedient, non-conformist spectacle that clearly sticks two fingers up to any traditional West End show floats your boat, then this is the one to see.
Written by the BAFTA award-winning Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, This Is England ‘90), directed by Evening Standard award winner Jeremy Herrin (Wolf Hall) and in partnership with the Headlong Theatre Company, ‘Junkyard’ is intentionally anarchic and is full of sharp and witty dialogue.
It’s also quite shocking at times, so be prepared for the audible gasps.
We stayed stuck together ‘cause that’s the way we were made
It’s a coming-of-age story based around the friendship of an eclectic group of disenchanted youths growing up in 1970’s Bristol, where inner city communities faced poor housing and insufficient education.
Enter the character of ‘Rick Davies’, played by Calum Callaghan (Mr Selfridge, Torchwood) a dedicated community leader based on Jack Thorne’s real-life dad Mike, who looks to recruit and inspire these ‘free-range’ kids by standing up for what matters and building an adventure playground with him.
As part of a long-standing tradition in Bristol’s poorer neighbourhoods, these playgrounds were started in the 70’s and run by the Bristol Adventure Play Association (BAPA) with grants from the City Council and ended up paying off in terms of giving young people a sense of belonging, reducing crime and feeding the imagination.
I thought I was challenging their souls
The hard-hitting, central character ‘Fiz’, played by the brilliant Erin Doherty (Call the Midwife) steers the production’s first act in a perfectly matched Bristolian twang, alongside the equally gifted cast members who all deliver a rollercoaster of humour and at times, a very ‘colourful’ language to the proceedings!
But just when you start to feel settled with the characters’ usual antics, a big spanner is thrown into the works which changes the entire mood of the musical leading into act 2.
It is during this part of the storyline that sobering themes of neglect, abuse and vulnerability rear their ugly head, bringing with them some emotional and at times, very moving scenes to the stage.
Added to this, the clever use of lighters and flash torches prove a simple yet effective method in disorientating the audience, whilst the backdrop of an eerie darkness packs more punch into the dialogue for those few moments of uncertainty.
It’s the best plaster cast we could’ve hoped for
Musically, it’s magnificent. Composed by Academy award winner Stephen Warbeck (Billy Elliot, A Christmas Carol) the score is played out by a talented trio on bass, drums and guitars, of which one guitar neck is played on an old sprung bed base.
When funky, rhythmic numbers blast their way into the audience, like ‘My Home’ and my particular favourite sang by Scarlett Brookes (Misfits, Blackout) who plays ‘Dirty Debbie’, ‘James Looks Like a Massive Potato’, there’s no shortage of enthusiasm for feet tapping and seat dancing as the underpinning 1970’s ska revival ignites the musical numbers.
It’s virtually impossible to leave the theatre without humming the show’s theme tune on your way out or wanting to go back to see the show all over again!
‘Junkyard’ is an absolute must-see and is on at the Theatr Clwyd until Saturday April 15. To book online or for more information, go to www.theatrclwyd.com or call the Box Office on 01352 701521
Tickets are priced at £25 – £10. Concessions are available.
You can also find more information about the Headlong Theatre Company here www.headlong.co.uk and you can follow them on twitter @HeadlongTheatre