This venerable venue has a distinguished history . Grade Two listed, it was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.125 years later, this week of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, it played host to a production of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” on a stage which has previously seen the likes of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles perform.
The production was an ambitious collaboration between Arts Connect, Tamworth Borough Council, and the Fired Up Theatre Company to realise a show which combined the talents of musical and theatre professionals with community and school groups.
Director Simon Quinn promised not to produce a nostalgia show, and succeeded, bravely electing to update the themes of alienation and social disintegration into a Tamworth setting with a well crafted script. Assistant Director Mal Dewhirst had the onerous task of integrating fresh original contemporary poetry composed by himself and Anthony R Owen, daringly he also included an audio of vox pops, recorded at Tamworth Cafes on the theme of The Wall which worked seamlessly well.
As both an introduction to the themes of the show, and a theatrical overture, the Shoebox Theatre staged Brickbuilding the Wall led by Margaret Jackman before the main event in an engaging intergenerational piece.
Any staging of The Wall depends upon a solid musical base, which for this production was provided by Chesterfield based Pink Floyd tribute band Floydian Slip. They were magnificent. Despite having to learn new arrangements and incorporate an extra guitarist, the sound was authentic, convincing, and combined a spontaneous feel whilst staying faithful to the original score without being a slave to it.
Two numbers always dominate this show, Another Brick in the Wall and Comfortably Numb. The former boasted a fiendishly complicated extended arrangement which they delivered with some aplomb, complete with a raging, grotesque, outsized puppet schoolmaster rising from the flanks of the stage apron.
The latter boasts one of the most famous guitar solos in rock history defined by Dave Gilmour. Prior to embarking upon it I saw lead guitarist Andy Ashley mop his brow, as if to acknowledge that this was the musical make or break moment of the show. He made it with much to spare, as the glitter ball rotated, the lasers flickered and his solo succeeded in touching the ethereal heights which simply must be scaled for the number to work.
The lead character, Pink ,was played by Luke Comley who ably led the theatrical ensemble despite the difficulties of having to synchronise with lead vocalist Mark Peterson of Floydian Slip whilst having his back to him.
Choreographer Ami Radcliffe did a first class job of combining a core of experienced dancers with an auxiliary dancing and chorus cast of school children from Two Gates primary school in Tamworth, who enjoyed their moment in the sun with the “Brick in the Wall” chorus. Gareth Pugh seemed to enjoy playing the pompous schoolteacher in that scene as much as we enjoyed watching him. The choreographic set –piece for Hey You was particularly effective with the girl’s colour splash tights contributing to a kaleidoscopic visual delight. Full use was made of the extended front of stage apron for dance as the main stage was occupied by the band.
Mal Dewhirst composed no fewer than seven original poems for the production of which Thin Ice was the pick of the bunch. Antony R Owen contributed two poems from his collection The Dreaded Boy with the references to Afghanistan giving the words an immediacy as he delivered his work via a video recorded backdrop.
It was a terrific production which Director Simon Quinn did well to realise with so many disparate parts to draw together. Although Another Brick in the Wall and Comfortably Numb were the showstoppers of the first and second half respectively an honourable mention should also go to the performance of Mother in which the band were on fine form, the dance fitted perfectly and a touching montage of real life Tamworth mothers was projected onto the back screen – a nice touch. As a veteran Pink Floyd fan who grew up to their music I am delighted to confirm that the music and production did justice to the original conception whilst updating and contemporising it for a 21st century audience.
The Wall also plays on Thursday 7th and Friday 8th June, 7.30pm start. For details: http://www.tamworthassemblyrooms.co.uk/arts-activities/the-wall
For more information on Floydian Slip:
Gary Longden 6/6/12