Oxy and The Morons – Paul Sirett, Mike Peters and Steve Allen Jones – New Wolsey Theatre, Saturday 21st October.
Unfortunately due to holiday commitments I only caught this production at the end of its run – but I do hope it is revived and taken on tour because this is probably one of the best things that the New Wolsey have produced this year – and if you didn’t get to see it you missed a real treat.
I can’t say I was ever into Punk as a teenager in the 70’s – but this superb musical, written by Mike Peters of Alarm, and Paul Sirett who penned the iconic ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ about Ian Dury and the Blockheads, is a breath of fresh air and full of wonderful songs that really ought to be released as an album in their own right.
Based substantially on Mike Peters’ own experiences, the musical follows the story of Andy – a musician who once played in an almost famous punk band – and who is given the devastating news at the age of 58 he has leukaemia. His life since the heady days of the late 70’s has been a bit of failure – his marriage to fellow band member Elizabeth long down the tubes – estranged from his brother Brian, also a former band member, and a son living in Germany he doesn’t really see. But the diagnosis gives him the kick start he needs and he decides to try and get the band back together in the hope it heals the old rifts, and with the promise of a retro album release of their previous material if they can perform a benefit gig.
On a practically bare stage the play is definatly in two halves . The first looks at the current lives of the band as Andy makes contact with his old friends and tries to persuade them to reform. The action is broken up by songs from the band when they were young – wheeled onto the stage between scenes to ‘rock the casaba’ so to speak.
The second half goes back to when the band were trying to make it – and the action leading up to their devastating split. This in turn is punctuated by songs from the band members as they are now.
Both groupings musically were equally effective, the music playing as much centre stage as the scripted scenes, and the lyrics punctuating and underlining the plot. The story was tight and well written, the characters fully rounded and believable.
Rob Jarvis (Andy), Janet Fullerlove ( Elizabeth), Sean Kingsley (Brian) and David Rubin (Terry) were excellent as the older versions of the characters – the raw punk rebellions replaced with sensible jobs and heath issues.
Mark Newnham (Oxy), Molly- Grace Cutler (Sheena), Matthew Dorkan (Razz) and Adam Langstaff (Bongo) were equally good as the younger versions – portraying that cockiness of youth when you believe you are the first to rebel and that you will live forever young.
Touching, funny and thoroughly absorbing – this was a show you really didn’t want to end. Well done to the New Wolsey and director Peter Rowe for bringing it to Ipswich – and let’s hope it gets a second run – it well deserves it.