When so many songs written by men are condescending (Wake Up Little Susie), dangerously demeaning (Blurred Lines) or darn right creepy (Every Breath You Take) towards women, it is right to evaluate their pervasive presence in our culture. Often hidden behind upbeat tunes, you innocently hum along, picking up the catchy riff, and it might not be until years later that you properly listen to the lyrics for the first time. Who here has grooved along to Brown Sugar before realising its casual references to slavery?
Never lived up to its promise
Rock’n’Roll Girls takes five women featured in these songs – Brown Sugar, Lola, Eleanor Rigby, Roxanne and Monica from Mambo No. 5 – and places them in a room together. Stuck living the life their lyrics have prescribed, they're only now realising that they can be more than thinly drawn characatures.
Unfortunately, the show never lived up to its promise. None of the young women convincingly inhabited their roles; Efe Uwadiae was perhaps the strongest as the group's ringleader. She had fun strutting around the stage and provoking the other women into revealing their secrets with outrageous remarks. Monica's wide-eyed naiveity generated a few hearty chuckles, but she never got to do much more than flop around the set. The costuming at least was well chosen, giving each character a distinctive look that embodied their prescribed personalities.
Time and time again themes are introduced without being sufficiently thought through. The celebration they are attending is never truly explained, the conceit of the card game doesn't ring true and the dialogue is often clunky. Strangely enough, even though the characters are trying to break free from their lyrical tyranny, writer Rachel Jermy seems scared to move away from the characters' musical origins, perhaps worried that they would be too unrecognisable if she diverged too far from the source material.
Perhaps most disappointingly of all is the lack of 'original music' promised by the flyer. With the show's title and premise, you'd think that this would be a great opportunity to clap along to some great tunes. At the end of the show, we were told that the original music was by a band called Hoarses. However, it was barely heard and only played at the very edges of the performance. PRS allowing, it would have been a good idea to introduce each woman by playing their respective songs. It took a while to realise that Monica was referenced from Lou Bega's Mambo No. 5 and, although the songs are very famous, if you don't make the connections quickly then the jokes will fall flat. Integrating more music into the production as a whole would be an important change to make. After all, it seems wrong to set a show at a band practice without playing or singing a single note.
Rock'n'Roll Girls is a fascinating premise and one worthy of further exploration. The five young women on stage seemed to be having a lot of fun – it's only a shame that the audience weren't invited along to the party.