DramaMusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Ruby & The Vinyl – Theatre Royal, Wakefield

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Writers: John Godber, Elizabeth Godber

Directors: John Godber, Jane Thornton

Much to John Godber’s credit, rather than continuing to plough a furrow that has brought almost continuous success, he attempts something different in this quirky feel-good musical romance, fantasy within a realistically mundane frame. Godber spans the generations by co-writing Ruby and the Vinyl for the John Godber Company with his daughter Elizabeth. In fact the Godber dynasty keeps a firm hold on proceedings, his wife, Jane Thornton, co-directing and daughter Martha serving as choreographer, though there’s not a lot of dancing on display.

Sadly the distinctive tang of a Godber script is missing, as, too, is the dynamism of direction that we expect from him: slabs of time elapse with two people standing centre front, talking to each other, either swapping names of television series/films or vinyl albums or one of them flying into an inexplicable rage.

The concept is ingenious. Ruby has a pop-up shop for vinyl and vintage clothing – it apparently stays in the same place for over two years, but “pop-up” sounds cool. Splicing the world of theatre with the real world, Ruby is Ruby Macintosh, a highly rated young singer-songwriter, and her songs telling the story of the play are never less than appealing, using conversational lyrics effectively and, in the case of The Story of Lillie and Tom, growing on repeated hearing.

Lillie and Tom meet in the shop. She is a university student who has suffered a father with relentless aspiration for her, he is a dedicated vinyl addict. They team up to binge on Netflix series, an intimate relationship with no overt sexual involvement – “We never kissed” is a recurring motif. There is a hard-to-believe episode of Lillie being so preoccupied with the problems of characters in Netflix dramas that she can’t attend her university course (are the hyper-intelligent young really like this?) and then they split when a harmless deception of Tom’s sends Lillie into meltdown. The question of “What is real?” is always bubbling below the surface. Of course, a happy ending is on the horizon.

Millie Gaston as Lillie and George Reid as Tom back Ruby’s vocals nicely, doo-wopping to great effect, and both register in their solo numbers, Lillie’s Act 1 closer promising a meatier second half than actually occurs, but a certain sameness settles over their dialogue, despite the fury that explodes from time to time. Lillie is bright and sparky and on the edge; Tom is dour and gauche and also on the edge. They tip over and find happiness, but it’s difficult to care, though the “dreams come true” philosophy of Ruby and the Vinyl is a welcome antidote to the pandemic.

Runs until 12th February 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Feel-good fantasy

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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