Review: The People’s Rock: A Musical (2018) – A Play at the Network Theatre [VAULT Festival 2018]

Another year, another Vault Festival! After my excellent experience during the two science-fiction shows I saw last year, how could I not return?

For those of you that may be hearing about this festival for the first time, the 10 week long Vault Festival is one of the UK capital’s most exciting events. With a mix of theatre, comedy, club nights, workshops and live music to choose from, you are guaranteed to be spoilt for choice.

First on the list is the debut of a new puppet show: The People’s Rock: A Musical (Also, it’s kind of endorsed by The Rock himself!)

the-peoples-rock-a-musical-poster-image.jpg

The year is 2050, democracy is dead, and the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. But does that mean anything to Tee (Francesca Mintowt), the teenage layabout with her head in the clouds?

Nope!

Living with her nana (Jiggy Bhore) and brother (John McEwan-Whyte), Tee’s life mostly revolves around her utter obsession with her hero: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; the “official” radio voice of the Emperor Trumpus regime.

But one morning Tee wakes up to find that The Rock has disappeared. His voice and image no longer surround her and everyone refuses to acknowledge he ever existed. Where has he gone? Has he been… Fired?


In terms of its political approach, The People’s Rock: A Musical (TPR:AM) is about as subtle as three kids sat upon each others shoulders, who then taunt you with fat jokes before proceeding to bitch-slap you in the face with a wet kipper while shouting “Surprise!”

Yes, it’s simplistic. The Rock = Good, Trump = Bad. But it’s easy to overlook this as you watch Mintowt bounce across the stage with the biggest of smiles plastered across her face. Easily the highlight of the play, her infectious attitude perks up what is a slightly slow beginning. Indeed, her skills are always shinning through, regardless if the scene is one of comedy or tragedy.

These more downbeat scenes actually come across as quite the surprise. A musical centred around a puppet version of The Rock does somewhat scream “comedy!” But much of TPR:AM is actually about loss, regret and how we remember our loved ones. Though it’s true our real world seems to have become increasingly darker over the past year, I’m still in two minds as to whether this was the right approach to take in terms of plot.

Though the theatrical props are sparse, director Sophie Benefer does an excellent job peppering her production with the sounds of a world gone to ruin. Mixed with some catchy, if sometimes offbeat, songs by Joshua Batch and Hedley Knights, the production does elevate itself above simply trading upon a famous name.

However, just like The Rock is considered “Franchise Viagra” in real life; once the big man puppet enters upon the stage, the show receives an excellent shot in the arm. Operated and voiced by McEwan-Whyte; the character’s tongue-in-cheek attitude makes an excellent companion to Mintowt. Acting as a sort of “Fairy Rock Mother”, the hilarity of the character brings to mind equally successful puppet shows such as Avenue Q. If anything, this play proves that The Rock, whether in blood or puppet form, makes everything so much better!


Though uneven in its mix of comedy and tragedy, TPR: AM is an engaging production that chooses to take a unique approach to American politics. With its strong female lead and delightful songs, this was an excellent way to kick off my visit to the 2018 VAULTS festival.

Overall Score:

three-stars


The People’s Rock: A Musical was performed from 24th-28th January at the 2018 Waterloo Vaults Festival.

Directed by Sophie Benefer
Produced by Nevertheless She
Story by Nevertheless She
Written by Beth Crane, Tilly Lunken, Ceci Mazzarella & Emma Shaw
Composed by Joshua William Batch & Hedley Knights
Prop,  Puppet and Costume Design by Beth Crane

Performers
Jiggy Bhore, Francesca Mintowt & John McEwan-Whyte


Photo Credits: Metro,

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