Thursday, September 28

Lena – Assembly George Square

This was – Brilliantly conceived and delivered – and I mean that most sincerely folks!

As someone raised on Opportunity Knocks (think Britain’s Got Talent) this certainly hit some deep and emotional triggers! Via the power of Jon Culshaw’s brilliant embodiment of Hugh Green, I am transported back to 1974, as 10-year-old singing sensation Lena Zavaroni, from the wee Isle of Bute, rockets to stardom on Opportunity Knocks, ITV’s top talent show.

At the start of the play, we see Lena in a wheelchair being led into an operating theatre for experimental neurosurgery. The story of her rise and fall, from her very humble beginnings on Bute, her neurotic mum and musical dad and the chance encounter that set her on her path, all presented in a series of flash backs.

Erin Armstrong is absolutely electrifying as Lena and totally believable as she transcends the singing and acting arc from cheeky and precocious schoolgirl to worldwide singing sensation to permanently damaged adult. Pulled and pushed, manipulated and sexualised by the music industry machine. Jon Culshaw is equally brilliant as TV’s original Mr. Starmaker, Hughie Green.

There are powerful performances too from Julie Coombe as Hilda, the pushy and needy mother who lives out her own dreams of musical stardom in her daughter. Likewise, Alan McHugh as Victor the mild-mannered dad who only ever wanted it to be ‘you and me and this old guitar’, and who always blamed himself for signing the contract.

A story of stolen childhood, sensitively written by BAFTA and Olivier award-winner Tim Whitnall and directed by Paul Hendy this is a winning combination, not to be missed.

Running time – 1hr 20mins

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 8th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.