Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Juke Box Baby @ Salford Arts Theatre, 16.10.14

Freshly formed Theatre Company 1956 have been hard at work with their ambitious Rep season of four plays over a four week period. Following the success of their debut (a stylised adaptation of Little Women) is Juke Box Baby, and original piece written and directed by cast member Lee Lomas. Set in 1950s New York, the production tells the story of Jimmie and Bobby Rose (Ben Wolstenholme); two brothers from Brooklyn, aspiring for a more optimistic future and self-discovery.

Jimmie - a naturally gifted writer with a heck of an emotional wall – is a high school dropout stuck in a dead-end job. He is the provider to his kid brother and alcoholic father. When Bobby’s future from an indubitable baseball scholarship is jeopardised, Jimmie does an act of kindness that changes both their lives forever. Writer/Director Lomas is a triple threat, as he plays the lead role of Jimmie and does so with emotional precision.

The supporting cast shine too, particularly Bradley Cross as the brilliantly diverse JC. Cross has impeccable comic timing, delivered by unrestricted physicality and stage presence. However his JC is not to been seen as a mere comic relief, as the character tells an underlying narrative of homosexual prejudice in the 50s.

Josh Morter plays Hunter, Jimmie’s best friend and alpha male of the group, and Morter, Wolstenholme and Graham Eaglesham (who plays the brother’s father) all collaborate to make a presence of the archetypal 50s male dominance with dangerous calibre. The romanticism of the production comes from Matthew Hattersley playing Michael and from the ladies of the cast: Amy-Jane Ollies as Lizzie and Hannah Ellis as Angie. Despite the stereotypes of the era, they break the mould; they are headstrong, stand by their beliefs and, more importantly, their emotions.

A nostalgic offering with modern grit!

Words: Kate Morris

Image: Courtesy of 1956 Theatre

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