Musical gets to the heart of Sixties' pop and fashion
Princess Theatre, Torquay, until tomorrow
Welcome to Swinging London; you've got to get with it or you'll be left behind. Down from Liverpool in search of fame and fortune Jude and Penny (Jonny Bower and Aimie Atkinson) follow their dreams. Celebrating both the diversity of 1960s music – pop, soul, folk, RnB and surf guitar, with a vibrant fashion scene, their story foregrounds a live and energetic performance of nearly 40 numbers.
Arriving in Carnaby Street, mecca for all that's trendy and up-to-the-minute, a chance meeting with Jack (Aaron Sidwell) finds them trying out for the C Street Band. Nothing is easy and Wild Thing (a pivotal character impressively played by versatile Mark Pearce) is anti. Yet "Merseyside Lads are all the rage". Trying out at the Marquee Club, dubbed "the most important venue in the history of modern pop music" they rub shoulders with an eclectic clientele including top manager Arnold (Hugo Harold-Harrison).
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Interestingly staged, news-vendor Al (Gregory Clarke) links action with period headlines – introduction of plastic bank cards, initial excavation for a Channel Tunnel – and those wonderful fashions from PVC coats to kinky boots and mini-skirts – stylist Lily (Paul Hazel), gloriously camp and flamboyant with a superb voice, is queen of the make-over.
As in life, there are highs and lows, expressed through a finely balanced music mix; the frenetic Roll Over Beethoven (Wild Thing/Jude) and Born To Be Wild, a plaintive Don't Throw Your Love Away by society girl Jane (Tricia Adele-Turner) and the powerful Son Of A Preacher Man (Lily and guys). On their feet for a glorious ensemble finale, audiences willingly join the party.
Journey in the footsteps of doomed pole expedition
In 1897 three Swedish adventurers headed for the North Pole in a hydrogen-filled balloon. Their aim was to explore new lands, to map the undiscovered Arctic and to plant the flag of Sweden at the pole. At 2.30pm on July 11 they cut the anchor lines and floated up into the cold Arctic air. They were never seen alive again... North North North taps into both their dream and their nightmare and is told by the award-winning New International Encounter (NIE) in this touring production that stops off at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter on Monday. Using an international cast, storytelling, physical theatre and live music, it's a journey, fuelled by hope, derring-do and patriotic songs, into one of the last great wildernesses.