Abortion and X-Factor may seem unlikely bedfellows, but they’re forced into an unholy union in the poptastic Journey to X. Inspired by Ireland’s draconian abortion laws, the play sees six aspiring starlets journey to London to audition. Deciding to kill two birds with one stone, one of the girls books an abortion in the city where dreams are made and foetuses terminated.
The sextet, clad in black shirts and red ties, squabble as school kids do. Too young to have credit cards, how will they book their flights? Too young to have jobs, how will they even afford their flights? Armed with little more than a wish and a prayer, the group vow to do whatever it takes to reach London - even if it means leaving their morals in a crumpled heap on the floor. Along the way, their progress is hampered by a triumvirate of school bullies, their bad-ass credentials evinced by the jaunty baseball caps and loosened red ties.
‘Fame is a fickle mistress,’ laments the band’s manager as he ponders the path they have chosen. ‘Everyone knows it’s not a singing competition - it’s a popularity contest.’
As the show unfolded, I found myself willing the likable cast to succeed, both in their pop aspirations and theatrical endeavours. Unfortunately it all feels a bit high school musical, from the cartoonish bullies to the scenes that consistently fade to a whimper. Moreover, for a show about pop music, where are the singalong songs? The irresistible hooks? The choreography and body popping? Then again, perhaps that’s the point: X Factor’s not about the music. It never was. Take away the tunes, however, and all you’re left with is broken dreams and unfulfilled potential.
Everyone wants to be famous. No one wants to put the work in.
For all that, the young cast shouldn’t be disappointed: there’s some genuine talent in there and the whole affair is shot through with enthusiasm and good humour, in spite of the bleak subject matter. When X Factor auditions go wrong, the journey doesn’t end there. You pick yourself up, dust yourself down and vow to return a year later. Stronger. Wiser. Better.