JOYCE MCMILLAN on DREAMBOATS AND MINISKIRTS at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 8.11.14. _________________________________________________________
4 stars ****
THE YEAR IS 1963, in this follow-up to Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran’s joyful Fifties teenage tribute show, Dreamboats And Petticoats. Our heroes and heroines are pushing 20, and raunchy lead singer Norman (Ross William Wild, in snarling form) is about to become a Dad; but the beat goes on, as Essex band The Conquests head for Liverpool to play a gig, meet four mop-tops, and encounter a sound they’ve never heard before, in a club called The Cavern.
It’s not subtle, this exhilarating tribute to the spirit of early-Sixties pop, which has two final performances at the King’s, Edinburgh today; the plot could easily have been written on the back of a cigarette packet. Yet it only takes a glance at the programme – with wall-to-wall features on Mary Quant and the fashion revolution, and on a time that saw the assassination of John F Kennedy, the explosion of the Profumo Affair, and the Beatles’ first Number One hits – to realise that this is a show immersed in the meaning of a rare revolutionary moment in British history, when a new generation seized control of the culture.
So in the programme, there’s a thrilling image of teenagers jostling outside The Cavern in 1964; and once the music starts – 41 great Sixties songs, all played live by Bill Kenwright and Keith Strachan’s terrific 16-strong cast – that energy simply comes alive on stage, in a playlist that ranges from Telstar and and Twist And Shout to Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman, The Beach Boys’ I Get Around, and a stunning a capella version of You Really Got a Hold On Me.
The point about the show is that for all their passion for music, these kids are caught like everyone else between the relatively conventional world of the Fifties, and something much wilder and more revolutionary, thundering over the horizon. Our heroine Laura, played by Elizabeth Carter, undergoes a striking transformation from long-haired high-school girl to supercool Sixties icon, with angular hair and white leather boots; her friend Sue – a vibrant Louise Olley – spends most of the show heavily pregnant, in an age when pregnant women were still expected to wear smocks. Yet the energy of the music- as it morphs from rock and roll into rhythm and blues – keeps the characters evolving, and the show on the road And as they finish the evening with a rousing chorus of When You’re Young And In Love, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that there never was a better time to be young in Britain; or a moment more full of possibilities.