Looking at theatre and the arts across North East England, the North East Theatre Guide continues to celebrate culture in our region.
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Baby Love is both a drama about the complexities of family and a celebration of that North East institution – the working men’s club. A handful of well chosen hits from the 60s and a clever script by Tom Kelly are well delivered in this entertaining two-hander.
Shelley is a 34 year old club entertainer. She sings with her boyfriend Darren around the once popular working men’s clubs. Darren is an avid collector of 60s vinyl. Not happy with just singing the songs – he seeks to know who wrote it and produced it. The elephant in the room for the couple is that Shelley wants a baby.
Not helping the matter is a mother who keeps dropping less than subtle hints about the couple getting married and that she wants to become a grandmother again. Darren, though, is less keen on the idea.
Fresh from the success of Geordie The Musical (North East Theatre Guide REVIEW LINK) Tom Kelly has retained all of the sharp wit and keen observation of the human condition to create a fabulous script. It is apparent that he knows the subject of the club scene well. Of the various quips by concert chairman and observations by the musicians themselves – the reference to the changing facilities being a cross between a toilet and a cell from the condemned was a personal favourite.This reviewer was once a barman in the concert room of a large club and the politics of the scene are accurately portrayed.
Helen Cash & Jonathan Cash
The play is also about a couple. It isn’t just what is said between a couple but what is unsaid and that is what helps raise the bar here.The two actors have to sing and reveal their back stories. Jonathan Cash’s portrayal of Darren helps keep the character multi-dimensional. His version of the tricky Roy Orbison song Only The Lonely, was as good as the better club singers out there.Jonathan’s real life wife Helen Cash is similarly well placed as the broody Shelley. She gives a wonderful version of Cilla’s Anyone Who Had A Heart.The couple have a real chemistry on stage which helps make the story more moving.
Accompanying Helen and Jonathan during the musical numbers was Andrew Soulsby on piano/keyboard. The decision to have a live musician is to be applauded. The audience responded by joining in on some of the numbers.
The only minor quibble of the show was the fact it had an interval after just half an hour. Would it have been better to have gone without? But there again perhaps I’m missing the point as having 2 acts replicates the set structure of club acts.
The audience clearly loved the format. They joined in with the singing when invited to do so and audible gasps at the start of the second act show that they were engaged. Indeed there was a well deserved standing ovation at the end.
Baby Love benefits from an insightful script, good music and charismatic acting.It doesn’t hide from the fact that family life is complicated and relationships are tricky to maintain. This charming show is canny.