Writer: Richard Cameron
Director: Kate Wasserberg
Richard Cameron’s The Glee Club is currently touring the UK in a vibrant new interpretation by Out of Joint. Directed by Kate Wasserberg, The Glee Club focuses on a group of six singing miners who share a passion for performance, and for whom preparation for the annual miners’ Gala provides a common goal. However, whilst all seems serene and in harmony within the Club, the miner’s lives beyond the music are tortuous and full of discord.
Wasserberg’s production is a delight from start to finish and truly captures the grit, camaraderie and working-class loyalty of the Yorkshire Mining community. Wasserberg’s sensitive direction also allows Cameron’s astute observations of the 1960s to really shine through.
Ironically, there is very little ‘glee’ in the lives of these colliery workers and the six-strong cast are outstanding in portraying the men who are trying to remain loyal and positive in the face of adversity. Alongside first-class acting, the cast also successfully execute some beautiful barbershop harmonies. Linford Johnson plays the part of Colin, the youngest member of the group who’s longing to be a pop star tragically results in his girlfriend making a terrible sacrifice to aid him in his efforts. Johnson plays Colin with warmth and subtlety whilst Eamonn Riley is wonderfully understated as musical director Phil who is trying to cope with being a homosexual in a small Yorkshire mining village at a time when there was little acceptance of sexual minorities. Riley invests the closeted Phil with a quiet dignity and the moment where the secret is unveiled to The Glee Club is an electric moment and played to perfection by the cast.
Bill Ward is mesmerising as Bant, an altruistic yet tortured soul who is not able to get on with his life after being deserted by his wife for the Rington’s tea man. Ward brings humour and warmth to his character and the strength of Bant’s loyalty and convictions is tangible. Joshua Hayes effortlessly plays Walt, a broken man still reeling from the death of his wife and unable to provide a family home for his children. There is a beautiful rapport between Hayes and Ward in their respective roles and there is a touching lack of self-consciousness when the two, who have both lost their wives, albeit it in different ways, come to depend on each other as dancing partners.
Kai Owen gives a strong performance as the philandering Jack, who though married, is tempted by the doctor’s daughter. Owen, alongside Robert Jackson who is superb as Scobie, the only character who seems to remotely content with his life, both offer highly accomplished singing throughout.
Kate Wasserberg’s keenly observed production is sublimely acted and strikes all the right notes both emotionally and musically, whilst successfully blending the comical and tragic moments of Cameron’s writing. The Glee Club juxtaposes the entertainment of musical theatre with the harsh reality of pit town life and the result is a warm and poignant piece of theatre.
Runs until 14 March and continues on Tour