Fred and Ginger

Love is a many-splendored thing, or so the soundtrack maintains as it heralds a fifty-minute romp through teenage troubles, acting aspirations and romantic realities. If the wooden bench, which is the set, could talk it would probably reveal even more than already comes out in the conversations between Izzy (Tilly Farrell Whitehouse) and Carl (Corey Thompson), but that might just be a tad too much.

Credible, heartfelt and humorously entertaining

Tilly sits on the bench exuding confidence as she awaits the start of after-school rehearsals. She’s in the chorus but does not intend to go unnoticed, and has aspirations for future lead rolls and a place at drama school. Carl sits nervously at the other end of the bench overwhelmed by her exuberance. For him, her suggestion of holding hands and doing a dance routine together like Fred and Ginger (Astaire and Rogers) is ‘scary shit’. Her assumption that Carl is another would-be actor is quashed when he explains that he’s on the bench because he’s in detention having been caught (allegedly) selling sherbet Dib Dabs cut with washing powder.

The story moves on apace with all sorts of events over the next couple of years involving families, sex, babies, jobs and a load of other stuff that really is no more important than the storylines of Grease or Fame. That’s not a criticism of Michael Southan’s script, which is rich in fast and furious teenage banter littered with humour. The story is there, but who cares? This is a frantic tale of kids growing up and encountering all those crazy things that, for a short time, seem important, stuff that is new and amazing, along with confusing discoveries that have to be worked out while surrounded by teachers, family and friends.

The casting for this production is spot on. Whitehouse has enormous energy, exudes confidence and takes complete control of the action, exactly as required for her role. Thompson captures the essence of Carl starting out as the embarrassed, edgy schoolboy but incrementally building his character’s self-assurance. By the end of this double act they are reminiscing and we are left to admire two young actors who have given credible, heartfelt and humorously entertaining performances.

Fred and Ginger is a Gritty Theatre production. Based on the belief ‘that drama should not only change lives, but also be a part of everyday life for everyone’, the company’s mission is ‘to discover and nurture new audiences by performing a repertoire that consists of modern works that reflect the concerns and issues of the communities’ around them. This play is something of a departure from the grittiness of previous dramas, but even as a light-hearted piece, its themes are firmly rooted in the experiences of kids from the Black Country. Most remarkably, Southan has written it in authentic Brummy as opposed to standard English with a Birmingham accent. As such it forms part of what must surely be a very limited repertoire. It is another tribute to the skills of Whitehouse and Thompson, who, although locals, still had to perfect and sustain the dialect. Ultimately they spoke it so convincingly that at times subtitles would have been appreciated.

Gritty Theatre was co-founded by Dominic Thompson and Ian Robert Moule only a few years ago. Dominic was fresh out of drama school. Ian had drifted into theatre many years before with an opening to study at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg. In Germany he went on to work for the Hamburg State Opera, Stadttheater Bielefeld and Cologne Opera House. Later he added venues in the USA. In the UK he was engaged with Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House. He taught in the Midlands for around a decade and eventually brought the idea of a truly local theatre company to fruition. He directed for the company and was working on this production when his long-running battle with cancer finally overcame him at the age of fifty-two. This performance of Fred and Ginger was given under the very sad circumstances of his death just a week before.

As he would have wished, the show went on and Gritty Theatre will continue, as he said, to ‘fly the flag for the West Midlands’.

Reviews by Richard Beck

Turbine Theatre

My Night With Reg

★★★
Brockley Jack Theatre

every seven years

★★★
Arcola Theatre

The Game of Love and Chance

★★★
Lion & Unicorn

Two Worlds No Family

★★★★
Jermyn Street Theatre

Mr and Mrs Nobody

★★★★
The Space

Helium

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Rehearsals after school. Izzy is in the chorus and wants to prove herself. She is determined to work her way up through the ranks and eventually secure a lead role, as one day she wants to ‘goo drama college’. Carl is only here because he got caught (allegedly) sellin’ sherbet Dib Dabs cut with washing powder.

Most Popular See More

Constellations

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Anything Goes

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Mousetrap

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets