We’ll Live and Die in These Towns – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Music & Lyrics: The Enemy

Writer: Geoff Thompson

Director: Hamish Glen

Reviewer: Nicole Craft

It’s been over 10 years since Coventry band The Enemy wowed critics with their debut album We’ll Live and Die in These Towns and around two years since the band announced their split, so it can hardly be said that the band were at the height of their fame when the decision to make a musical based on their songs was made. We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, the musical, cannot be accused of simply serving to provide a cheesy ‘best of’ medley, however, and lyric and song are neatly woven into Geoff Thompson’s script to provide a fresh interpretation of the band’s music and a unique and meaningful production to boot.

Argy (Tom Milner) is living his dream. Hours away from going on stage to support The Stones in his hometown, he freezes. Despite his manager’s best efforts to persuade him he’s got what it takes, Argy leaves the rehearsal room to go Away From Here and revisit the loved ones he feels he’s left behind in an attempt to find himself. Will fear take over? Or will time have healed him enough for him to confront his demons and take to the stage in front of an all-too-familiar crowd?

Although Milner’s portrayal of Argy grows in confidence as the show progresses, possibly an effort to reflect the character’s state of mind, we are still left feeling as if we should have had a little more from him, with more emphasis on his transition from quiet to confident required. His vocals suit the piece well, however, and he does enough for the audience to root for his success. Steven Serlin’s somewhat stiff performance as the band’s manager sadly doesn’t quite convince though and the rapport between him and the other cast members needs work – this, unfortunately, contributes to a very slow start in the opening few scenes and the inevitable relief later on when things start to pick up.

The band, which plays at the rear of the stage throughout, does well to double as various figures of Argy’s past, Meg Forgan being particularly memorable as chavvy drunk Meghan, and Molly-Grace Cutler offering a touching portrayal of Argy’s sister, Shelly. Julie Mullins is spectacular at capturing the raw emotion of her parts, causing many of us to shed a tear or two. Completely stealing the show, however, is Quinn Patrick in both his role as Argy’s brother, Bill, and of the local priest. Managing to completely separate the styles of his two characters, his vulnerability as Bill is captivating and heart-warming while his air of completion and confidence as the softly-spoken priest charms.

Patrick Connellan’s set design sees the audience sitting on three sides of the stage around a concrete-block cityscape with locations projected on to the rear wall to help set the scene; the downfall of this being that those seated at the side have a restricted view of said images, despite the rows only being two-deep, creating the need to lean forward at times to ensure we aren’t missing anything. Despite this, it still works well and is an imaginative use of the space and, although anyone local to the area can recognise the shots of the city that appear in various scenes, Connellan does well to ensure they could indeed be any other area of desolate suburban wasteland therefore meaning a connection to the city isn’t necessary to appreciate the theme.

We’ll Live and Die in These Towns isn’t quite ready to “set the streets on fire” yet, but it’s a fresh, modern, take on a common dilemma with a mass of potential that could transport to any given place and still be as relevant; even without prior knowledge of the hits.

Runs Until 20 October 2018 | Image: Robert Day

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. 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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