The opening night of Tamworth Repertory Company’s much anticipated production of Quadrophenia promised much, and delivered, to a full and enthusiastic audience. Following the success of last year’s production of The Wall at the same venue, director Simon Quinn from the Fired Up Theatre Company, and assistant director and Staffs Poet Laureate Mal Dewhirst, have once again combined to produce a show of vision and panache.
Prior to the main production was a one act dramatisation of military stories with Tamworth and Staffordshire connections, ably led by Luke Comley, in a Shoebox Theatre community theatre production which drew upon fascinating source material gleaned from local newspaper the Tamworth Herald.
Two artistic creations dominate Quadrophenia, the original album and the film. The album, in full, provided the musical soundtrack, the film provided only the broadest of reference points. Musically the album is one of the more satisfying and coherent rock operas/ concept albums. Its only weakness is a lack of familiar hit singles for the uncommitted. Wisely, Green Onions , made famous by Booker T and the MG’s ,and The Who’s “My Generation” were added to the first half, to crank up the energy, and audience.
The music itself was provided by The Pinch a band who specialise in music of that era. They were excellent. Bass guitarist Matt Starr laid down the distinctive sound of John Entwhistle. Lead vocalist Jon Starr provided vocals which were authentic to Roger Daltrey, without being a slave to them, providing identity and colour to proceedings. As House Band for the evening, extravagance was not required, what was needed was a steady reliable rhythm which Tim Butcher supplied with restrained assurance. The album itself is a recorded work with significant overdubs and musical layering, the job of replicating the full sound fell to Keyboard player Tom Brookes who dextrously combined piano and keyboard work. Daz Meads , meticulously replicated Townsends lead guitar parts with care and flair. A separate guitarist, minstrel James Attwood played incidental music throughout which was complimentary and sparsely drawn.
Archive film footage of the mod era was shrewdly chosen by Mal and Jimi Dewhirst, projected onto a backdrop, greatly adding to a sense of place for the production. Emma Smith co-ordinated the choreography and fight scenes, the latter of which were always entered into with gusto by the young cast. And talking of young cast, the youngest of several Jimmy’s, Rhys Goldingay, stole the acting honours with his jaunty persona, and cheeky smile . The part of Ace was played by Michael Callow in an impressive cameo which begged for more stage-time. Playfully , Simon Callow, cast The Doctor as a woman which Ruth Huddleston clearly enjoyed playing in the role of a naughty nurse, in high heels and jump suit. The other stand-out performance came from Hayley Clark as Jimmy’s mum in a wholly credible and engaging portrayal of the part.
The device of having several Jimmy’s playing young and older incarnations as well as different psychological roles was clever, and offered numerous dramatic possibilities ,but did occasionally weigh down the narrative pace. However the production was rarely more than a few minutes away from a great soundtrack song, or energetic choreographed set piece. The Pinch were more than up to the task of executing the key pieces, The Real Me, 5.15 and Love Reign O’er Me towered in quite challenging circumstances playing always behind the staged action and with each song separated from the last by on stage drama.
Quadrophenia was a musical, stage, and community success and a fitting testament to the hard work of so many who took on the daunting challenge of producing a work rarely performed on a theatre stage, and succeeded.