Writer: Stella Grundy
Director: Ian Curley
Reviewer: Jim Gillespie
Stella Grundy’s one-woman show forms part of the Library Theatre re:play Festival at Salford’s Lowry Theatre. Nearly. As it isn’t actually performed in the theatre.
Having mustered in the coffee bar we are shepherded down two floors and along subterranean corridors to arrive at the Lyric Theatre Basement Orchestra Dressing Room. Here, 30 chairs have been arranged around a bed, a table, a stool and a microphone stand which will serve as the bedrooms, dressing rooms, hotel rooms and stages on which Stella Grundy will bring Tracy Star’s pop trajectory to life.
The storyline is history repeating for Janis Joplin through to Amy Winehouse, as Tracy takes a familiar route from teenage dreams of stardom, through the great rock and roll swindle, to substance abuse, breakdown, and death. That the story is slightly cliched is inescapable. The challenge for Stella Grundy, and the creative team behind her, was to make it newly credible and emotionally engaging.
The tools were simple. A very basic set, some clever use of biopic and talking heads video footage to set the scene, clever lighting, and – of course – a good sound system and some striking tunes. Some recorded songs, but several performed live to a very slick backing track. Stella can “front”, and as she was the sole focus of the attention, she needed to.
With so much resting on the central performer, it would be too easy to judge this show by Stella Grundy’s own performance. But clearly, the work of musicians and technicians whose input is already uploaded before the show starts is of immense importance. Credit therefore to the ghosts in the machine who created – on the whole – a convincing bed for Tracy Star to lay down her torments. The quality of the songs was very variable; One was reminded of John Shuttleworth as often as Peter Hook. But some of that may be personal taste. I’ve never liked John’s later work.
This is slick. It uses all the talents of the team, and the technology of modern media to reincarnate the worst of local radio interviews, the asinine attitude of record label executives, and the bovine innocence or idiocy of the backing band, soon consigned to the studio dustbin, to stoke the star-making machinery.
Stella Grundy has created a compelling central character, and is herself a compelling performer. Her voice is imperfect, but so was Janis Joplin’s. More importantly she can hold an audience. Well held.
Reviewed on 20th January 2014