Writer: Anna Jordan
Director: James Grieve
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
Have you ever heard a few bars of a song and been immediately transported back in time to your younger self, with all your youthful aspirations, emotions and insecurities to boot? G and Kayla have. During an evening at a wedding reception, Kayla and G meet and strike up a friendship as the songs take them back and we gradually learn their histories.
Director James Grieve says Pop Music is, ‘a love letter to pop, and to people … for whom music has been a lifelong companion’ – people like G and Kayla – and that is exactly what he and writer Anna Jordan have succeeded in creating.
Kayla aspired to be a singer but lacked the drive and ended up in an office job – a means to an end, that end being the weekend and holidays. One of the alpha girls at school – the gang everyone feared – she is coming to terms with a life that isn’t what she wanted, a life where she is lonely even among crowds. She seeks oblivion through the media of music and drink.
G was bullied at school – the awkward loner. He has, perhaps, overcome that by leaving the area and working in the music industry, discovering the joys of losing yourself in raves and gaining an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Now albums. Yet he struggles with relationships and he, too, finds himself too often lonely, especially after the loss of his mother.
As the evening wears on and G and Kayla open up and discover they have shared experiences – and radically different perceptions of their shared past.
Paines Plough’s Pop Music is a loud, exuberant experience. For 70 minutes, pop music standards wash over us as we learn about our two protagonists’ pasts through song, dance and spoken word. And not just that – on stage with G (Rakesh Boury) and Kayla (Katherine Kotz) is Remix (Ciaran Alexander Stewart) who provides BSL interpretation for G and Kayla as well as being a third dancer when needed. And to make this piece as accessible as possible, the simple set also includes a monitor with surtitles. It is a credit to all involved that Remix and the surtitles are integrated so seamlessly.
Supported by sound designer Dominic Kennedy and movement director Annie-Lunnette Deakin Foster, Grieve has created a fluid piece that invites reminiscences but also has the occasional emotional punch as more of Kayla’s and G’s stories unfold. Boury’s G moves convincingly from socially awkward teen to successful adult to fearful son; Kotz’s Kayla shows her front and underlying vulnerability well. All three cast members show great energy, rarely still, even when the spotlight is elsewhere.
Pop Music is a joyous celebration of coming of age to a backdrop of classic pop. It toys with our emotions as we travel back in time with Kayla, G and Remix.
Runs Until 22 September 2018 and on tour | Image: Contributed