Manband - They're Not A Boyband

Do not be fooled into thinking that this is simply a tale of a bunch of faded men trying to emulate their teenage youth. And thankfully it's not the story of a group of Westlife-wannabees trying to achieve fame and glory either.Instead Stuart Price has constructed a piece that is both heartwarming and comic, touching and hilarious in equal parts, and displays some highly skilled acting from this outstanding cast. Christian (Chris Grahamson), a former boyband heartthrob, is separated from Rachel (an outstanding Hayley Doyle), and becoming increasingly neglectful of their daughter. After forgetting to buy tickets for her favourite band, Christian is determined to find a way of allowing his daughter to meet her idols, but this involves a little reunion of his own....Although boyband references run throughout – watch out for the lyrics of Backstreet Boys being analysed – there is so much more on offer here than a giggle at “doing a Westlife” style choreography and The Full Monty-esque men re-learning their former skills. At the heart of this story is of a family struggling to find their feet again, and the unfolding of this fractured relationship is told beautifully in the performances of Grahamson and Doyle. Their pain is palpable, their anger totally real, and their penultimate scene is a masterclass in how so much can be communicated without actually saying it. At the climax of the scene Grahamson lets out a slow smile; it is a moment that is so charged and loaded with meaning that I wanted to both cry and applaud.There is equally much to applaud in the supporting cast. Neil Frost turns in a superb performance as the factually-obsessed storeworker, striking the perfect balance between keeping it real and providing much comedy; Catherine Morris and Lydia Jenkins are hilarious as giggly blonde twins; Sian Polhill-Thomas has a truly wonderful cameo; and, along with Grahamson and Frost, Dean Elliott and David Beck create fantastic and believable chemistry as the chief foursome. Indeed, the characterisation is rich at every point in the show, even from the characters who appear only briefly.Binding this all together is a terrific script from Price. He has a real ability to create very intimate scenes as well as outrageously comic ones. The dialogue is sharp and witty, full of truth and utterly real. Having watched two of Stopped Clock's other offerings at the Fringe this year, it is clear that this is a company that is going places fast. I would heartily recommend it as a fresh and original piece of theatre, and as an hour of pure entertainment. Congratulations to all involved.

Reviews by Damian Sandys

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The Blurb

A musical (kind of). They can't sing. They can't dance. They can't play. They're gonna be stars. 'Manband - They're Not a Boyband'. New show from acclaimed writer Stuart Price: 'imaginative ... technically polished' (Fringe Report).

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