'Give me some music. Music, moody food, of us that trade in love,' Act II, Scene V, Antony and Cleopatra
An old T.V showing the distinctive CEEFAX news and music highlights immediately takes the audience back in time. 1993: the year Take That had their first number 1. But this isn’t a musical about Take That; it’s a musical about friends who collectively loved a band (which Take That are based on), and their friendships.
If you’ve ever loved a band in that very specifically adolescent way, prepare for a nostalgic kick as all your daydreams unfold on stage. The Band, who are tastefully never named, literally spring out of 16-year old protagonist Rachel’s bedroom in the very first scene, in a way that actually makes you feel jealous for all the times that never happened to you. The girls are instantly on your side; you see your younger selves in them and you really want them to meet the band and get married and all the things you wished for yourself with *insert your band here*. However, based upon their characterisation, the teenagers would have probably been better aged about 13; being 16 myself really not very long ago, I found it hard to believe them as the giddy, bumbling characters they are portrayed as.
Not being a Take That fan, I was sceptical about whether Tim Firth’s new musical would be able to transcend the ‘women-of-a-certain-age’ audience demographic I was expecting, who were all most definitely, at least at one point, die-hard Take That fans. The songs fit in fairly well; some are clearly there for the sake of it which sometimes causes the plot to lose pace a little, but even if you don’t know the songs, the show doesn’t lose anything. I think the fact they are all Take That songs acts merely as bonuses for fans, and I found myself forgetting they were purely Take That songs most of the time anyway.
You can’t help but laugh at The Band themselves who perform as the most archetypal bubblegum boyband, bouncing around on stage like puppies with endless energy. They double up as every other stereotypical heartthrob: the buff engineer, the charming shop assistant, the flirtatious air steward – everyone who’s just out of reach.
The group of friends grow up and reconnect on a whirlwind holiday to ‘see the boys’ one last time. Rachel Lumburg and Emily Joyce really stand out here. Behind the band’s idealism and all the teenage dreams they represent, real life has happened to the women since they were last together. Things haven’t worked out for some and completely changed for others, and there are some surprisingly tough scenes to watch, culminating with a very emotional ending - though unfortunately these moments are sometimes broken up with unnecessary gags. I felt the audience were really touched – it is so easy to relate to these characters and the friendships that develop from growing up together with the one band you all love.
So whatever band it is who used to be ‘yours’ - they’re probably not cool enough to like anymore - I recommend you see ‘The Band’ if you get the chance, even if it is just for your inner teenager. I almost guarantee you’ll go home and play those albums that formed the sound-track of your life straight away (...that’s what I did).
Ella Faye Howcroft