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REVIEW: Love Songs at South Shields Customs House

Love Songs
South Shields Customs House - Monday 15 October 2018
Arts Centre Washington - Thursday 18 October 2018
Middlesbrough Theatre - Tuesday 23 October 2018
Seaton Delaval Arts Centre - Saturday 27 October 2018

Off the back of the success of Baby Love, Jarrow-born Tom Kelly has penned another drama for real life couple Helen and Jonathan Cash which is on tour around the North East.

Vicki (Helen Cash) has been in an abuse relationship with Leslie for some time. Controlling and manipulative, her mother recommends that she leaves him but will not put her up at her place as she has a new boyfriend. Vicki misses her Dad, who died when she was young, which adds to her mental state. She struggled to find a way out until she noticed an advert for a 60s tribute tour.

Gary (Jonathan Cash) is under his mother’s thumb. She expects him to work, find the money to support her and pay for her house, as well as doing all of the household chores. She chose never to work, even when her husband left her. This is not a recent episode and he has struggled to make friends, even at school. He can sing and hence he jumps at the chance to join the 60s tribute tour. Like Vicki, he doesn’t pass on what he is up to or where he is heading. He simply packs his case and gets the train to London with thought of his mother’s voice screeching in his head.

Jonathan and Helen Cash with Tom Kelly (centre)
The action in this 2-handed play is split between the dressing room and the stage of the theatres on the tour which are in the present, and flashbacks to their previous relationships. On stage the 2 actors have wonderful voices that recreate the great hits by the likes of the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Elvis and Dusty Springfield. The highlight of the evening for my, however, was Bridge Over Troubled Water which combined the emotion of the original song with the impact of the drama’s storyline.

Off stage they are playing two socially awkward, quiet individuals which doesn’t always make for the most gripping action. However, in Tom Kelly’s tale – the addition of the, at times violent, back story helps explain the current state of affairs without over stating the point.

Love Songs looks at abusive relationships and the need to speak out. It understand how an external vehicle, such as music, can be an escape route from the trauma. As good as the songs, and musical performances are, they don’t actually fit in with the exposition other than being generic love songs. The action ‘on stage’, at times is at odds with the action ‘behind the scenes’.

This is certainly a different piece of new writing.  It covers a tough set of issues and yet it contains some great love songs from the late 50s-1970.

Review by Stephen Oliver

On The Web:

Click here to see a short video sampler of the play produced by Unified Media.

Arts Centre Washington on Thursday 18 October,

Middlesbrough Theatre on Tuesday 23 October

Seaton Delaval Arts Centre on Saturday 27 October.

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