Writer: Richard Cameron
Director: Kate Wasserberg
Tuesday night in Doncaster, an audience of mainly People Of A Certain Age sit down to watch a self described ‘raucous comedy’ about the trials and tribulations of six miners in 1962, all members of an after-work barbershop-ish singing group, darlings of last year’s community gala, eager to prove themselves this summer.
Well, it’s sometimes funny, but only to offset the massively depressing stories of each of the men. The big plots go to 19 year old Colin Wrigglesworth (Linford Johnson) who provides a narrative framework with his dreams of becoming a famous pop star, even though he can’t yet play guitar and sings song with a group of guys at least twice his age; and Phil Newsom (Eamonn Riley), 50-something pianist and Church Choir Leader accused of inappropriate actions with some of his younger, male singers. These two stories are genuinely engaging, and Johnson and Riley are both excellent actors. Riley in particular imbues Phil with a quiet and dignified grace, and it is a shame we don’t get to hear more of his personal struggles. Instead the stage is taken up by Bant (Bill Ward), a gobby boozer recently separated from his wife and very much not ok with it. His story isn’t particularly interesting, and Ward shouts out every line as if he is doing a movie trailer voice over, killing any empathy we might have for him. Ward is of course a former Coronation Street and Emmerdale actor, which might explain the over dramatic delivery somewhat. The other three characters have stories that aren’t even worth mentioning, since they add nothing to the plot, no matter how good the actors are. This is The Glee Club’s main problem – too many attempts to pull on the audience members’ heartstrings without having the time to actually make anyone care about those doing the pulling. It might help if the Yorkshire accents weren’t garbled to the point of incomprehension. At least they sound to come from Doncaster, where the play is set – there just need to be some annunciation.
It must be said however that the music and singing is fantastic, and goes a long way towards counteracting the flaws in the script. With live piano accompanying renditions of 50s classics it really is beautiful to listen to these six men sing together. There has obviously been a lot of effort gone into this part of the show. Kudos to Musical Director Dyfan Jones. If there were more songs, less plot lines, and the same level of genuinely funny humour (and comically timed male nudity!) The Glee Club could be a sharp, enjoyable show. On the other hand, the audience did seem to genuinely enjoy themselves. Perhaps you just need to be Of A Certain Age to really get it…
Runs until 7th March 2020