Review – Teddy by Tristan Bernays & Dougal Irvine

‘Teddy’ by Tristan Bernays & Dougal Irvine – New Wolsey Theatre till Sat March 24th

The 60’s has been well covered by plays and musicals – but not so much the 50’s, and the rise of what we now know as the modern day teenager. Post war Britain was a dire, depressing place – bombed out buildings, rationing and many families on the bread line. But the War had brought the Americans too and their influence across the pond was here to stay.

The youngsters who had been born in the war years emerged from the rubble wanting something else in their lives other than the graft and grind their parents had accepted as the norm. The emergence of rock n roll from the US, and the Teddy boys and their Judies, who based their dress on second hand Edwardian clothes, brought a new life and flavour to the grim streets.

This then is the background to new musical ‘Teddy’, written by up and coming young writer Tristan Bernays. And what a breath of fresh air this musical is! On a simple set Johnny & The Heartaches – a band comprising drummer Sammy (Andrew Gallow),  base player Jenny ( Freya Parks), lead guitar Buster ( Harrison White ) and singer of the moment Johnny Valentine (Dylan Wood )  –  punctuate with original numbers one night in the life  of two newly emerging teenagers, Josie  and Teddy,  as they escape their drab existence for a night on the town where they  meet, get into scrapes,  fall in love,  enjoy a bop at an illegal rave and in the end get into serious trouble.

Playing all the characters they meet as well as the main protagonists, actors Molly Chesworth  and George Parker embody the era, portraying Teddy and Josie  as souped up, street wise and sassy as they strut their way through the uncharted territory that was London in the 50’s. The script is written in loose rhyming couplets which helps keep the pace red hot as they tell the story of their night out amidst the bombed out buildings and raw night life of the City.

Interspersed are the songs, veering from hard rock to melodic crooning, from the lovely voice of Wood as Johnny, the idol of both Teddy and Josie, who go to extraordinary lengths to get the cash in order to get to see their hero.

This could have been a rather difficult watch with just two actors telling the story – but the energy the whole cast exhibited was palpable and the newly formed couple’s dance skills a joy to watch as they weaved us a credible plot that never once dropped in pace or interest.

This is a production with adult themes – and there is strong language throughout. But even if this isn’t an era you thought you were particularly interested in I would urge you to see this superlative production – it will keep you on your toes and give you an entertaining evening you won’t forget in a hurry.

Suzanne Hawkes

STUDENT REVIEW FROM  Deryn Baidoo – East Bergholt High School

‘Teddy’ is a spectacular performance set in the late 1950’s about two young teenagers who are brought up in a place in London called Elephant and Castle.

The play was packed with electrifying, bouncy songs such as ‘Ready Teddy’, and ‘Blue without you’, all of which paired so well with the acting and performance and all round fun, creating an amazing atmosphere.

The band, who consisted of Freya Parks, Andrew Gallow, Harrison White and Dylan Wood, were so in tune with the performance, and really set the tone as they were so into the music and acting. Despite the play not being focussed specifically on them, there were so many times where I felt my eyes being drawn to them. I loved that they were on stage all the time and they were acting just as much as Molly Chesworth and George Parker, who played the main characters of Josie and Teddy.

One of my favourite things about the production was the acting. I loved how Director Eleanor Rhode and Writer Tristan Bernays incorporated the Brecht style of multi-rolling and had just two actors playing the many characters. I especially loved Molly’s portrayal of Tully, the horrible ‘gorilla’.

The lighting also directed us on where to look, and who to focus on, which I found very helpful. I loved how when they spoke of the stars, the lights came on around the stage and audience, which really made me feel like I was part of the show.

The costumes were great too, and I found the ‘Teddy Boy’ style very engaging – the actors looked like they could have been from 1956, when the play was set.

There was, however, bad language, on-stage smoking, mentions of violence and flashing lights. The music was extremely loud, and I would recommend an age-rating of 14+.

The play was electrifying and funny and one of the best theatre productions I have ever been to, and there was never a dull moment. There was always some sort of action, or music, or something that just made you want to keep watching, and I wish it had have gone on for longer, because I would have happily stayed!

Altogether, I loved every second, and I would recommend it to everyone over 14, who needs a fun-filled, electrifying night!

 

 

 

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