Come and dance with a Teddy boy and Teddy girl
Many have never heard of the Teddy look before, yet for many people who lived in the UK during the 1950s this was a part of real life. It was a cultural trend that was found in many places; derelict buildings, and homes, which were destroyed by German bombs. Ten years after the Blitz (September 1940 – May 1941) young boys and girls, pretending to be adults, donned the Teddy aesthetic: a look epitomised by polished suits, super slick back hair and a passion for rock and roll music. It was Bill Haley and His Comets recording of ‘Rock Around the Clock’ in April 1954 that caused a musical shockwave across the Pacific – American culture had finally hit Britain.
Teddy, a musical by writer Tristan Bernays and composer Dougal Irvine, has arrived at the Vault Festival in Waterloo. The Vault Theatre has changed up its bar’s furnishings to a derelict and post-war feel to accompany the show. It is grabbing the attention of many original Teds, taking them down memory lane, and plenty of theatregoers who have never heard of the subculture before. Teddy is an immersive take of 1950s’ London seen through the eyes of displaced youths of post-war society, Josie (Molly Chesworth) and Teddy (George Parker).
On stage, reliving and performing the smooth rock and roll tunes, are 50s heartthrob Johnny Valentine (Dyland Wood) and the Broken Hearts, which include Buster Watson (Harrison White), Sammy ‘The Sticks’ Smith (Andrew Gallo) and Jenny O’Malley (Freya Parks). It’s a leap back in time filled with nostalgia. Together these immensely talented musicians and singers jam to music with the same style and blend as Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. And it’s thoroughly entertaining.
With fast dialogue and rich storytelling, which is often poetic, Chesworth and Parker dominate the stage. Within a flash, you’re following Josie and Teddy on their journey deep in multiple bomb sites, passing a chicken shop and running under a railway, to find Johnny Valentine’s secret concert – somewhere tucked away in London.
Both Chesworth and Parker are impressive as they evoke and bash out different characters; various male and female personas interchangeably. From watching them on stage: jump; climb; and dance, you’ll feel as if you’re right by their side and seeing events unfold as they happen. Admittedly, it can be quite a challenge to catch every word they say with their Londoner’s accents going at maximum speed, yet they prevail and if you can catch 70% of what they say, you’ll get the gist of their rock ‘n’ roll adventure.
Chesworth is quite the chameleon when it comes to transforming herself from fearless Josie to the gorilla-like bully called Tully. Chesworth has so much energy in her footwork that she makes you want to get up, dance and share the same enthusiasm Josie has for Johnny Valentine. Parker was dynamic too. Giving an outstanding interpretation of Teddy, he showed off his vocal skills to Josie, while, at the same time, trying to prove he could be a rock and roll singer like Valentine too.
Before the show (I attended on April 5, 2018) I took part in a dance workshop with other theatre bloggers. We were taught some 50s inspired routines by Teddy‘s choreographer Tom Jackson Greaves which was most enjoyable. Every night, after the show, Johnny Valentine and the Broken hearts perform 50s songs on stage for the audience to dance to, which gives it that personal touch for original Teds and keen audience members who would have wanted to rock and roll from the start of the show.
Teddy is is showing at the Vault Festival (London) until June 2, 2018. For more information on the show and to book tickets, please click here.
(I was provided a complimentary ticket to a special bloggers event through the PR company.)
Header image: George Parker as Teddy and Molly Chesworth as Josie in Teddy. (C) Photo by Scott Rylander.