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TADS THEATRE GROUP “MOJO” TADS Theatre, Toddington
Director: Harry Rodgers 13/5/17
Mojo is a gritty drama concerning a club in the 1950’s, where the owner is killed and the resulting actions of the people who work in the club are the basis of the play.
I applaud TADS for allowing a new young Director in Harry Rodgers, to follow his dream in directing this play that he loves, set in an era he loves. Harry was able to tap into a wealth of experience from his cast, and I hope that his vision came to life for him, and he was happy with the result.
For my part, I thought he’d attacked the play with his knowledge, making it seem very real, and I was engrossed in the characters from the start. The use of tables at the front of the auditorium made it seem as if we were actually in the club, and although at first I felt a little exposed (I usually like to sit in the back row), I soon forgot about myself and bought into the action.
Having seen the play before I was immediately struck by the marked difference in interpretation of this production. More thought had been given to the relationships of the men involved, and there was a lot of humour brought out, which helped lighten the dark nature of the play, and make it more interesting.
The set was driven by Harry’s vision, designed by Andrew Naish and constructed by members of the group. The lighting design from Paul Horsler suited the feel of the piece.
I felt that every little detail had been thought about and executed to echo the realism of the plot. So well done to all concerned.
Strong language was the order of the day, but the cast delivered their lines with no sign of it being anything other than the natural way their characters would speak.
The authentic juke box enhanced the feeling of reality, and the discs played sounded as if they were actually being played on it, with the choice of music being absolutely spot on.
Small things, like the pin up pictures on the wall, next to a portrait of the Queen, seemed so right, and the inside of the club created the feel of a rather seedy establishment, decorated with sequins to try and make it seem something it blatantly wasn’t.
Harry Rodgers played the small part of Silver Johnny, the club entertainer, who was trying to make it big, and his opening to the play really set the feel and the scene. Loved the shoes!
Richard Chatterley, in his first stage role for a number of years, created an excellent character as the club manager, Sweets. Presumably called that because he doled out the drugs, and kept swallowing them himself, just like sweets! The only problem I had was that he shuffled a lot, more noticeable in Act 2, as where there were quiet moments it tended to encroach on the drama being played out.
I loved the character Andrew Naish created for Potts, quite the best thing I’ve seen him do. Perhaps a little over the top at times, but an excellent portrayal nonetheless.
Joe Hawkins as Baby, the son of the deceased club owner, gave us a slightly crazed young man, always on the edge, just coming down once in a while, but delighting in tormenting Skinny. Very well done.
Skinny, seemingly probably the most normal of the team, was played by Jack Glendenning, and I felt that in every way he portrayed the outsider. Probably the only person not taking drugs as a matter of course, but enjoying eating cake instead. Possibly because he was so different to the others, his character didn’t always sit well with me, but he was a definite contrast to the others who were very volatile!
The final cast member was Steven Pryer as Mickey, who gave a good performance as the troubled boss of the club, who had been told that the owner had been murdered, and we discovered that the body was in two dustbins. Quite chilling when the bins were hauled onto the stage and placed quite near to where I was sitting.
Skinny’s shooting was managed really well, and there probably wasn’t meant to be as much beer spilt on the stage as there was, but in a way it served to give the scene more movement, as the cast slid on the floor.
The only part I didn’t really like was the bows – they seemed very mundane for the standard of the rest of the play, but that is just a personal observation.
Mojo will not have been everyone’s cup of tea, because of the subject matter and the language, but I thought it was extremely well directed and acted, held my attention throughout, and made me feel I really understood the characters and the situation being played out before me. Very well done to everyone involved, and particularly to Harry for the amount of work and preparation given to the play, making it a triumph.
For the rest of the cast, I would just say that when doing their own thing they should remember that they are playing to an audience, and feel comfortable with what they are doing so that they can buy into the emotion of the words.
Claire performed her song extremely well, accompanying herself on the keyboard, and showed good skills.
Isabelle showed a good understanding of the words in her song, which was quite poignant, she accompanied herself and I was impressed with her performance.
The Park Bench was a fun ending, giving the cast a chance to take the applause that they so rightly deserved, a little more attention to detail would have given it more emphasis.
A good all round production, with some notable performances, that I thoroughly enjoyed.
TADS Theatre Group
review date 13th May 2017
Director: Harry Rodgers