Thanks a lot Mr Kibblewhite – Roger Daltrey, My Story – Book Review

 

 

book

 

It is impossible to talk about the book, without talking about the band. It is impossible to talk about the band in isolation. The band, The Who, only mean anything in relation to those who experienced them, and their music. Thus, not only is this a book review, it is also about my experience of Daltrey and the band, first hand, and how that measures up to what I have read.

 
I was too young to catch the Who in their 1960’s heyday. My first remembered introduction was when I heard the single “5.15” from Quadrophenia in 1973. I was immediately struck by the powerful vocals, distinctive drumming, and energy of the songs. With so much music going on in the broad pop and rock scene back then they didn’t immediately force their way to the forefront of my consciousness . Bowie was breaking, Glam was in full swing, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were at the peak of their powers, amongst so much else fabulous talent.

 
The “Tommy” film was my first proper opportunity to consider them more fully. But although a quirky film with some memorable sequences, it wasn’t that good, nor did the music make a big impression on me, with the exception of Elton’s “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me Feel Me”. The latter prompted me to buy the album “Quadrophenia” and everything changed. My perception of the band was of one who could write four vinyl sides of narrative driven songs. It was a revelation. If I had been born ten years earlier, I would have seen them as a singles band, as it was, they were purveyors of the concept album.

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Townsend in trademark leap

Keith Moon died in 78. That could have been the end for the band. Kenny Jones ensured it was not. I was hugely fortunate to be able to catch the band for the first time at the Rainbow Theatre in London, third row, May 2nd 79. They were defiant, they were fired up, they were uncertain, they were magnificent. The “best gig ever” is such a subjective judgement subject to changeable variables, but this was up there. No support. Legendary DJ and TV presenter Annie Nightingale was sat next to me. The lights went down, and the volume turned up ay 8pm.

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From the 2nd May comeback show

This was the setlist:

 

Substitute
I Can’t Explain
Baba O’Riley
The Punk and the Godfather
Boris the Spider
Sister Disco (Premiere: First performance)
Music Must Change (Premiere: First performance)
Behind Blue Eyes
Dreaming From the Waist
Pinball Wizard
See Me, Feel Me
Long Live Rock
Bargain
Who Are You
My Generation
Join Together
My Generation Blues

Magic Bus
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Encore:
The Real Me
————————–

the who
Daltrey sang like a man possessed, Townsend made the sound of a dozen wind milling guitars, Entwhistle harnessed Jones. It was rock perfection. “Pin Ball Wizard / see Me Feel Me” was the highlight.

“Listening to you I get the music, gazing at you I get the heat from , following you I climb the mountain, I get excitement at your feet.”

The song built and soared, the energy exploded past the danger zone, for a few precious moments, everyone was at one, the band, the audience, the emotion, in perfect unison.

Townsend’s lyrics are not of the Springsteen / Ray Davies calibre. Laid bare they look serviceable only, but in conjunction with the dynamics of a live performance, they assume a potency wholly unapparent on the page. The teenage confused inarticulacy of “I’ve got a feeling inside, that I can’t explain” and the rage of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” driven by Daltrey’s angst, and Townsend’s chopped chords, by a process of musical osmosis, metamorphose into something unique. To witness this in a small theatre, when the music felt it was reaching out to greater London and the world was special.

 

I saw the Rolling Stones in the 90’s, they were a pantomime act. Led Zeppelin at Knebworth in 79 were a bloated, tired facsimile of the band that had reshaped early 70’s rock. The Kinks in the early 90’s kept their flame alive, but few were interested. The Who at the Rainbow were the real deal.

 
I did not see them live again for over twenty years, until Nov 8th 2000, Birmingham NEC, again with prime seats, this time only eight rows from the front, with Joe Strummer and the Mescalero’s as support. They were fabulous. It was typical of the Who that they should give a platform to a British artist, with a fine pedigree, who needed a helping hand to reinvigorate his career.

Minstrel Boy
Bhindi Bhagee
Gamma Ray
London’s Burning
The Harder They Come
Brand New Cadillac
Rock the Casbah
(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
I Fought the Law
White Riot
————-
It was a vintage set from Joe who revelled in the big space the arena offered, the surprise highlight being a stunning stretched out version of “Rock the Casbah”.
At 9.15p the lights went down again. A full house. A big stage, twenty years on could they still do it? The answer was emphatically yes.

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The setlist follows:


ent

John Entwhistle aka “The Ox”

Thirty years on from their heyday they could still do it, the magic remains. Two years later Entwhistle was dead, a wonderful rock n roll check- out in an expensive Las Vegas suite, with hookers and cocaine- it is what he would have wanted. Beyond that colourful demise he is sparingly sketched as a man who played his bass too loud and had to have Daltrey explain the benefits of light and shade in his playing and solos.

Daltrey is credited as the author of this work, making it an autobiography, with no credits, or acknowledgements, offered. The writing is not lucid. It reminds me of a series of audio recordings in response to questions. Broadly chronological, some time shifts are apparent, but smack of desperate editing by the publishers, rather than inspired storytelling by Daltrey. Just occasionally first person autobiographies work, Brue Springsteen’s and Rick Wakeman’s most notably. The former by dint of his language and observation, the latter by dint of his humour. Both qualities are in short supply with Daltrey’s offering.

Daltrey is at pains to mention frequently that women were always throwing themselves at him. Once he has done this several times, he then does it again. He also stresses the drug addled state of other band members, and his own abstinence. The lad rates himself. It is not difficult to see how the politics of the band were likely to be tense and uneasy.

This is Daltrey’s story, not the story of The Who, but all too often events are described in a way that appear subjective, lack context, and feel incomplete. Daltrey acknowledges the contribution of managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, sincerely, but succinctly. There is no sense of the extent of that contribution, or its impact, not least with Tommy and Quadrophenia whose operatic sweep was envisioned by the erudite Lambert.

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Who co-managers Chris Stamp (left) and Kit Lambert (right)

On several occasions Daltrey makes reference to the financial dynamics of the band, namely Townsend as the writer and beneficiary of the publishing rights rich, Daltrey as the singer dependent upon live performances for his income, poor. A recurring theme is the visceral, pugilistic demeanour of the singer, and the reflective, cerebral Townsend. Lambert is also lambasted as a chancer and swindler, which may have some truth in it, but the extent of his contribution is underplayed. Townsend is condemned as acquiescing to Lambert and Stamp’s excesses.

 

I suspect that there was more to it than met the eye. When the band fired Stamp and Lambert for pilfering the band’s earnings on their own hedonistic excess they turned to convicted armed  bank robber Bill Curbishley, brother of football player and manager Alan Curbishley to take over the band’s affairs. Although not an obvious upgrade, Curbishley was clearly a better band manager than bank van raider, and his talents drew Judas Priest and Plant & Page to his management fold. What he lacked in artistic flair he made up for, curiously, in honesty.

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Bill Curbishley

Daltrey is not one for analysing and commentary. He arrived, sang someone else’s songs, lived out someone else’s vision, but added his own innate sense of showmanship gleaned from hours of listening to and performing the hits of other rock n roll and blues stalwarts. He chose well. Yet it was his drive which undoubtedly kept the band going, overcoming the deaths of Entwhistle and Moon. Moon is described unflatteringly as a character, a drunk, and an instinctively brilliant drummer who didn’t practice and didn’t even own a drum kit.

Keith Moon Playing the Drums

Keith Moon

What is beyond doubt is that he is a fine singer, one of the rock greats. Yet he stuck with the Who exclusively, despite their having produced nothing of note musically post 1978. He claims loyalty to the band. But I think that he, and the fans, missed out on a more diversified repertoire – contrast him with Paul Rodgers.

As a Who fan, and student of the history of pop and rock, the book is interesting. As a literary endeavour it is poor. As a snapshot of the lead singer of a rock band it has validity. As an objective contribution to the band, its songs and members it is a disappointment.

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Indianapolis -Lynn Vincent & Sara Vladic, book review

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The sinking of the USS Indianapolis is one of the greatest modern maritime disasters, and the single greatest to befall the US Navy. It is a truism that such disasters are rarely simple. Such is the case with the Indianapolis. This meticulously researched book by author Lynn Vincent, and film maker and historian Sara Vladic, has much to go on. The United States and Japanese navies were slaves to record keeping. The story was widely covered contemporaneously by the United States, and world, media whose archives are available. Best of all, some survivors were still alive to give first person testimony and commentary. The credibility, authenticity, and bona fides of the material are about as good as it is possible to hope for. Although the work of two women, the book speaks with a single voice.

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Captain Charles McVay – Court Martialled for failing to zig zag

 

Running to approaching six hundred pages, the story falls into neat sections, which themselves are sub divided into easily digestible chapters and episodes. It opens with the campaign to take the Japanese held Pacific islands, and the Japanese defence, particularly their use of Kamikaze attacks. Remarkably, we are then introduced to its role in transporting part of the atomic bomb from America to the Pacific which was to be used to such devastating effect. The important, but uneventful, task of atomic bomb transportation gives way to the meat of the story, the sinking and the rescue. The denouement comprises the court martial, followed by the exoneration.

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Japanese Sub Commander Hashimoto

 

The first half of the book is by far the stronger. Individuals are introduced, from commanders to junior enlisted men, for the Islands campaign and Bomb transportation. By the time the Indianapolis embarks upon its final journey we know many of the men, we have seen them in action, we have shared in their triumphs, lows, loves, friendships and losses. The pace is brisk, the dialogue and jargon authentic, the events engaging and gripping.

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The I-58 which sank USS Indianapolis

Unsurprisingly, the sinking and desperate fight for survival of its crew is visceral, traumatic and compelling. Of its original complement of around 1500, 300 die with the ship as it is torpedoed, some 900 make it into the water, five days later only 316 survive. No detail of the horrors of open water survival are spared. The fire, the oil, hunger, the thirst, the hallucinations, the violent fights, and sexual predation, as civilisation is stripped away to leave the best and worst of the human condition. The sharks are the stuff of pure horror. Nudging the men’s dangling legs, so numerous it was if the survivors could walk on their predator’s backs, so cruel that men were intermittently snatched from salvation alive when the sharks had bored of dead corpses. This takes us to roughly the half way point in the pagination of the book. That proves to be a problem.

So well told is the story so far that nothing can match the climactic end of the sinking, survival and rescue. So carefully are the circumstances laid out, that the subsequent trial and guilty verdict for Captain Charles McVay are patently to be found wanting. Siphon off all drama.

The re-emergence of the Japanese submarine commander who sank the Indianapolis as, extraordinarily, a witness for the US Navy’s prosecution team, provides interest, but that does not last long, and the narrative sags horribly post trial. Bewilderingly the subsequent suicide of McVay merits barely a couple of paragraphs. Given the impressive background information and research gleaned on virtually everything else, the failure to deal with McVay’s tragic demise is a serious shortcoming in an otherwise densely written work.

A particular skill in histories is not in deploying all the information you have just because you have it, a flaw which the authors fall victim to. A more concise resume of the fight for justice, and a fuller exploration of McVay’s final days would have made a good book great.

 

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Morgan & West: Magic for Kids, Derby Theatre

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*****

Magic is an uncertain theatrical form. You know that you are watching a trick – but in order for it to succeed, you have to believe it, even though you know it is a trick. Furthermore, the better a trick, so the next one has to be even better. It is a suicidal arms race which no magician can hope to win. The requirement to believe brings out the child in us. The desire to crack the artifice draws out the adult problem- solving reflex. Which brings me to Morgan & West, a duo, who at Derby Theatre, at an 11.30am half term school holiday showing, were performing a nominally children’s show to their curious adult escorts.

My expert child reviewers, Reuben and Beau, were aged seven and eight. The oldest children in the audience seemed around eleven, the youngest from three upwards. Any parent knows that trying to keep the simultaneous attention of that age range is not so much magic, as miraculous.

Morgan and West present themselves in Victorian clothes and speech. Morgan, tall and unctuous, West short, and even shorter tempered with children. There is no compromise on language, with many adults almost certainly having to google legerdemain. It works. This other worldly, possibly time travelling, persona only adds to the sense of mystery which finds substance in a narrative which embraces a very loose game show format, with hilarious results.

Understandably, the show majors on physical tricks. An unending supply of umbrellas and coloured eggs is routine. A sawed in half Morgan, and escape from a locked box in which the duo replace each other. is not. I did not know how they did ANY of the tricks.

The audience were enthralled from the start to the finish of the sixty minute show. The test of how enthralling a children’s show is lies in how many decide they would find a trip to the toilet more interesting mid show. No-one did. Even though the dialogue would have been difficult for pre-school children to follow, the characterisation, physical comedy and tricks kept them hooked. The older children, used to You Tube fare, looked on incredulous as magic happened live in front of them in a theatrical auditorium, not on a four inch phone screen. Adults marvelled at both the trickery, and the removal of any need to attend to their offspring for the duration of the performance. The narrative is a vital element of the performance. It not only links the trickery, it also softens the edges, and dulls the memory, so that we are not engaged in an onstage arms race escalating to the “best” trick. The laughs, of which there are many, are the oil for the wheels of the machinery.

Producing a show for children which does not dive for the lowest common denominator, instead of something greater, is no easy task. Morgan and West achieve that. The essential ingredients are there. Kids on stage – who were very good , a hapless parent, and unexpected audience responses , Donald Trump being a comic gift for this performance. The set was also impressive and robust, not the skimpy effort some children’s shows try to get away with. Well- paced, exceptionally scripted, and with impressive on stage magic Morgan and West produced a show that was amongst the best of its genre I have ever seen, with plenty to suggest that there is more magic to come. Rueben and Beau loved it.

Their website provides details of forthcoming performances well in to 2019. Catch them on the way up!
http://www.morganandwest.co.uk/
Gary Longden

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Suede – Wolverhampton Civic Hall 1/11/94

suede, royal albert hall
A young family prevented me from swooping into the Britpop explosion. Early Oasis, Pulp, and Blur all came and went. But I did catch Suede, although perhaps just a couple of months after their high- water mark. The good news is that it was on the “Dog Man Star” tour in 1994. The bad news was that it was just after Bernard Butler had left.

dms

I liked their debut album, a bit rough, but with some great songs. But “Dog Man Star”, their second, was a different package altogether. It was ambitious, musically complex, sounded lush, but still with the energy, albeit refined, of the first album. It was Butler’s flawed masterpiece. He had walked out during its recording leaving songs incomplete, there were arguments over arrangements, production and song length- but somehow the results are glorious.

Live, Richard Oakes, then only seventeen years old was hired to play Butler’s guitar parts which he learned note for note. Incredibly, it worked.

The band could have folded, instead they, and in particular lead singer Brett Anderson, emerged defiant. Wiry, sinewy and sedulous, he combined flamboyance with an instinctive understanding of what a front man should be . Setting himself apart , and distinct, from the likes of Liam Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker and Damon Albarn.

The Wolverhampton Civic Hall is a great traditional rock venue with a large standing floor area, wide stage, and seated balcony. The acoustics are fabulous. It was an ideal showcase for the band with wiry frontman Brett Anderson prowling the stage, as fey as Marc Almond, as arty as David Bowie, with the moves and energy of Mick Jagger.

brett-anderson-suede-black-and-white

The set was as good as it would ever get. The high energy “Animal Nitrate”, teenage crie de couer “So Young” combined with the epic sweep of “Stay Together” and “Asphalt World”. They played pretty much all of the “Dog Man Star” album, “Introducing the band/ We Are The Pigs” the obvious powerful opener.


After the second album they drifted away from the edgy, arty, energetic sound in favour of a more commercial, pop one. They became a pop band. Without Butler’s inspired song writing that was inevitable – most thought that Butler’s departure would be the end for the band. But it wasn’t, and “Coming Up” the third album had no Butler songs whatever, but did include the catchy, if lightweight “Trash”. Surprising many, including me, they have survived, endured and prospered through a combination of ability, hard work and determination.

That night it was obvious that the band were something special, but often in pop it is for a moment, when the stars collide, and then tastes move on. But also, there are times when you see a band live and you have caught them at a special moment. Musically, I suspect that a show with Butler would have been better, but that tour caught them at a crossroads, where defiance and determination triumphed over loss and introspection. What a night it was.

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If We Could Talk to the Animals

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Cannock Chase Trekking Centre Owner Lisa Gregory

I am fascinated by means of communication which transcend our known understanding. Plato spoke of Universal Knowledge. Scientists wrestle with epigenetics – the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another, physicists ponder quantum physics, are there multi-universes? Is everything happening at the same time simultaneously in parallel universes?

 
On a more mundane level there is animal communication between species, and across species. That it happens is a given, the diversity of how it happens little understood.
Beyond that there is communication between humans and animals. They seem to understand us, much better than we understand them.

 
Over twenty years ago I started to ride at the Cannock Chase Trekking centre, based in Brocton back then, but now at fabulous stables at Teddesley Coppice. I rode with my daughter Sarah, then aged nine. It was where she learned the joy of free riding rather than the drudge confines of a riding school. Lisa Gregory, the owner, made an immediate impression. Vivacious, intelligent and personable, she was also clearly an outstanding horsewoman. I have been able to ride to a high standard since childhood. She personally reignited by enthusiasm for riding out, prompting Sarah and I to ride as regular customers.

 
Sarah loved a pony called Banner . I was never bothered about how nominally good or bad, slow or fast, temperamental or placid my horse was. Instinctively, I could just communicate. I remember several occasions when awkward customers complained about the shortcomings of their mount so persistently that Lisa would swap mounts, giving the complainant hers, and taking the allegedly troublesome horse herself. Miraculously, the troublesome horse became the best horse on the ride, and her own mount played up the complainant something rotten!

 
I happened to catch the following contemporaneous blog from Lisa about a recent incident of communication between human , and horse. I share it with you verbatim, and if you want a magnificent ride out on Cannock Chase look no further than Lisa Gregory and the Cannock Chase Trekking Centre:

 

 

23rd October 2018/in CCHT News, Our Horses /
THE BOND OF FRIENDSHIP
“Despite spending all my life working with horses there are still moments that give me goose bumps and catch at my heart strings.

 
Often those are moments that leave me reflecting on the bond of friendship that exists between ourselves and these beautiful and sensitive animals that share our lives.
I experienced one of those moments recently here at Cannock Chase Trekking Centre. It might seem trivial to some but it was something that really left me amazed. I will tell you the little story and you can judge for yourselves.

 
As followers of our Facebook page know, I am currently training our new arrival, a beautiful Andalusian mare called Nymeria. She is quite sensitive and a little bit challenging so I often work her in the arena in the evening when it is quiet with fewer distractions.

 
I had worked her and then turned her out. The rest of the herd were long gone so, with Nymeria loose, I walked up the field to open the gate and let her through.
Unfortunately she spotted them through a gap in the trees and became fixated that she should go the wrong way. With no lead rope or head collar I was stuck and could not persuade her to follow me through the open gate.

 

She was getting a little agitated when I had an idea and approached my good friend Capulate, who was grazing in the next field. As my blog readers know from when I wrote about him, he was one of the most challenging horses I have ever trained. We spent many, many hours together and as a result we have a special friendship. I love him, he loves me, simple as that.

 
We had a little chat and a cuddle that evening and I explained my predicament. Then I did some of my natural horsemanship join up technique and he left his grazing to follow me into the other field where Nymeria was still fretting. I really had no clue what would happen next.

I watched in delight as Capulate went straight to her and stood with her for a few seconds. Then he turned, and with Nymeria following closely behind, he led her through the gate and escorted her to her friends before resuming his grazing.

 
I closed the gate behind them and stood in quiet amazement. I am left with more questions than answers. How did he know what I wanted him to do? How did he understand? How did he communicate with the mare?

 
All I do know is that he is my beloved friend. I had a problem and he fixed it. The rest must just be magic!”
http://www.cannockchasehorsetrekking.com/

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A Voyage for Madmen -Peter Nichols, book review

voyage

I was at junior school when this competition was raced, the name Robin Knox Johnson has endured ever since. At the time, it was marketed as one of the last tests of human endurance, a billing was heightened by the space race, and the imminence of man landing on the moon. New frontiers were opening up. This is the story of nine men who took up the challenge to become the first men to circumnavigate the globe, single handed, without stopping or outside assistance.

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The victorious “Suhaili” in full sail

It is a story of stoicism, bravery, foolishness, vanity , incompetence and skulduggery. A story of mountainous seas, self doubt and determination, of flimsy boats and mighty oceans. All the ingredients of a great story. Yet although the narrative is Homerian in content, author Peter Nichols’ prose is not.

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The victorious Robin Knox Johnson

Nichols is an experienced seaman. Too often it feels as though we are poring through a ships lo when we should be feeling the salty spray on our faces, and the wind clawing at our frail human frames. He tells the story of each of the nine contestants, but with varying degrees of conviction. There are no first person interviews, just stories and supposition gathered together from contemporaneous accounts.

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The Tragic Donald Crowhurst and boat

The book draws to a close with Knox Johnson’s victory and Crowhurst’s apparent suicide. Both feel unsatisfactory. There is an old sales adage “ Don’t sell the sausage, sell the sizzle” and his accounts of both have the texture of a factual news report, not the breathless account of an eye witness. The most compelling story, that of Bernard Moitessier, who instead of claiming first prize, kept on sailing is frustratingly sketched. It is the ultimate vindication of the saying that it is better to travel than to arrive.

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Bernard Moitessier – the man who kept sailing

For anyone wanting to appraise themselves of the Golden Globe race, its protagonists and events, this book does the job well. Anyone who wants the spirit of the race, and why the men did it, will be disappointed.

Bernard Moitessier sailing his ketch rigged yacht 'Joshua'

“Joshua” Moitessier’s boat.

However the tale does bear telling. An era before satellite phones, GPS, ship mounted radar and reliable weather forecasts. When boats could be out of contact for months – but remerge from the vast oceans intact. When men were tested to their limits, and sometimes found wanting.

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Abigail’s Party – Derby Theatre

Abigail’s Party – Derby Theatre
****

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I saw “Abigail’s Party” when it appeared on television in 1977, the year it was written, some forty one years ago, watching as a teenager. It received generous reviews. I loved it. I also found it very uncomfortable watching. It shone a bright light on the world around me, one of aspiration amidst a crumbling economy. Played out on a single, period set, it is about five characters, and their place in North London suburbia. An exploration of manners, people, and their foibles.

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I was curious to see how well it had survived approaching half a century on. This revival is a co-production between Derby Theatre, Queens Theatre Hornchurch, Wiltshire Creative and Les Theatres de la Ville de Luxembourg.

Thankfully, Director Douglas Rintoul does not re-invent the setting, dialogue or conceit. The production depends upon its cast who rise to the challenge admirably. Beverly is the star turn, beautifully, and spikily, played by Melanie Gutteridge. Blonde, and sassy, dressed in a slinky halter neck print long evening dress, and fashionable again wedge heels, she is the pulse of the production, her brash pronouncements a wafer – thin veneer for her underlying vulnerability. Her extended solo presence at curtain up imposes her physicality on what is to follow.

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Lee Newby’s stage set perfectly captures the 1970’s as much as the detail of Mike Leigh’s script verbally remembers a bygone age of Mini’s and Bacardi and coke. Christopher Staines infuses Beverly’s husband Laurence with a touch of Leonard Rossiter, and a dash of John Cleese, as he balances Estate Agency, and a high maintenance wife with a low level intellect. Amy Downham has less luck than Melanie Gutteridge with the Wardrobe Department, sporting a garish, short dress, and mustard tights which Gok Wan would not approve of in the 21st Century. She does however have the most room to develop her character from a skittish ditsy airhead to a woman whom you can rely upon when it counts. Her husband Tony, played by a gloriously statuesque Liam Bergin, is all facial and body expressions, with lines so sparse they were surely learned over breakfast.

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The most interesting and problematic character is divorcee Susan, mother to the eponymous Abigail from whose house party she is escaping. Susie Emmett imbues her with a quiet desperation as events unfold before her. Is she watching on disdainfully? Or is she a victim too?

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Rights issues have caused the music to be altered from the original, but is nonetheless satisfying, and faithful to the era. The sounds of Demis Roussos conjure the slow dance, the Sex Pistols “God save the Queen” rumbles from fifteen years old Abi’s house party beckoning in a new musical hegemony.

At a hundred minutes running time, the play does not outstay its welcome and prospers as a revival, rather than a reinvention. It continues until 20th October, before completing its tour at Salisbury Playhouse and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg.
Gary Longden

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