Fans - Review by David Whetstone
This musical blast of a show first toured in 2016 and makes a welcome return, manifesting The Six Twenty’s pledge to produce “theatre that should be enjoyed at maximum volume”.
At Live Theatre, of which the North East outfit is an associate company, the stage is set up as if for a gig and the walls bear the projected names of many for whom fans over the years have declared undying love – Arctic Monkeys, The Clash, Massive Attack, One Direction.
Four actors – all accomplished musicians – breathlessly express the facets of music fandom: the online scramble for a ticket; the blind faith, should one not be forthcoming, that by heading to the gig they’ll get in anyway; the manic adoration of the crowd; the desperation to be near the stage; the fear of the bouncers; the dying for a pee; the sob story for the ticket collector on the door.
But the four are also a band, a wannabe band without a distinctive philosophy or sound – or even, as yet, a name (a fun aspect is that audience members are asked to drop a suggestion in a hat for the musicians to mull over on stage – and what a hard job it is, judging by the terrible ideas on opening night).
Charlie Raine, North East born but London-based, reprises the role of chirpy Charlie, arch Madonna fan and aspiring diva whose parents, sadly, do not share her enthusiasm for a life at the mic.
Chris Foley, doubling as musical director of the show, is back as Chris, demonstrating a mean skill on guitar and justifying his unswerving passion for Green Day.
Also back is Andrew Bleakley, from Northern Ireland, as Andrew, the burly and bearded drummer who exudes warmth and displays a surprising mastery of the higher register in many of the songs performed.
Making up the quartet is Alex Tahnee as Meghan, replacing Meghan Doyle from the first run of the show who left her name behind as a legacy.
Meghan has a geek’s knowledge of music and loves all genres. When bumping into a kindred spirit who’s stuck for new sounds to love, she makes him a mix tape to show the wonders waiting to be discovered.
The drama and the music are inextricably linked in this likeable and funny show written by Nina Berry, who made a splash with Live’s The Terminal Velocity of Snowflakes, and deftly directed by Melanie Rashbrooke, founding artistic director of The Six Twenty.
And there’s a morsel of audience participation with glowsticks to be waved. Who could fail to be swept up in the band’s brilliant snatches of Madonna’s Vogue or Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, or indeed a Beatles number, sung beautifully a capella?
Whether this nameless band will ever muster an army of fans or sink into oblivion like so many others is anyone’s guess. But you can’t fault the determination of its members to give it their all.
It is matched by the cast of Fans to pay homage to the adoring music-loving millions and to give a theatre audience a thoroughly good time. And with that, and showing my age, I’m off to see Barclay James Harvest (remember them?) at the Sage.