Wanderers, we’ve talked before about how awesome theatre is and so it will probably come as no great surprise to you that I went to take in a show the other day. What might surprise you is that I walked into the theatre with very little idea of what I was about to see. You see, I tend to avoid doing excessive research into shows I’m actually looking at attending so as to avoid the dreaded spoilers and be surprised by what I encounter on the stage – but usually, the show’s website has a bit of blurb that fills you in on at least the start of the story. Not so with Mojo – what it did have, however, was a very impressive collection of positive reviews and a frankly stunning cast list. Based on that, and the very brief introduction on the site, I booked tickets.
The show itself, which I saw during its run at the Harold Pintner Theatre in London, is an emotional ride that spans no more than about a day in its characters’ lives. And what lives they lead, especially for this one particular day. The show’s set in a nightclub in 1950s Soho, with its characters trying to make their mark on the music business – and between you and me, I’m not entirely sure everyone involved is completely legitimate. There’s certainly something decidedly sinister in the air as the play develops, and while there are some great comedic lines fired off it’s a bit of a dark emotional ride. Jez Butterworth seamlessly blends the hilarious and the macabre with a healthy dose of intrigue, and if I had to sum up the whole show in a meme, it would definitely be ‘that escalated quickly’. Every scene.
The performances were amazing, but when you look at the group of people who came together for this production, it’s hardly a surprise. The second scene saw the lights came up on Rupert Grint (of Harry Potter fame) and Daniel Mays, who I personally know best as DCI Keats from Ashes to Ashes. They’re swiftly joined by Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), Colin Morgan (Merlin) and Brendan Coyle (Downton Abbey). The first scene was entirely carried by Silver Johnny as played by Tom Rhys Harries, whose credits include the Sheffield production of The History Boys, and who did extremely well in what must have been a very physically demanding role. Every member of the cast has an extremely impressive history of roles in theatre, and their collective experience really shone on the stage. Grint’s ‘Sweets’ and Mays’ ‘Potts’ really led the way in perfectly-timed comedy, while Coyle as Mickey balanced them out with a certain gravitas. Morgan, playing ‘Skinny’ demonstrated a fantastic range of moods and mannerisms, and Whishaw managed to stun the audience with a brilliantly layered performance as ‘Baby’.
The creative team behind this particular production really excelled themselves, too – the lighting was very well-used, the props and scenery on stage versatile, and I still haven’t quite worked out for certain if the stairs going down to under the stage in Act One were actually the same stairs that led up out of the top in Act Two but the transition from upstairs to downstairs during the interval left no room whatsoever for doubt that they were all in the same building as before.
Oh, Wanderers, I wish I could tell you more about the show, but the plot’s too delightfully surprising as you watch it to risk ruining it. Suffice to say that it’ll keep you guessing throughout, and though this particular production has drawn to a close, there is a 1997 film version around somewhere and we can only hope that Mojo will return to theatres in the future. It’s not suitable for the very young, certainly, with sexual themes and some rather gory moments, but if that sort of thing doesn’t bother you it’s certainly well worth the watch.
I’d give this 4 out of 5, and it’s only losing that point largely because I’m upset that it closed before I could watch it again.
Eleanor Musgrove (really enjoyed this show)