Tuesday, July 5

The Glee Club – Theatre by the Lake

The wheels of the pit shaft create the backdrop for this coming of age play, writes Karen Morley-Chesworth.

Music has always been at the heart of mining communities – and the latest production at Theatre by the Lake takes us back to 1962 to join the five pitmen who aren’t in the brass band but singers in The Glee Club.

This is a beautiful ensemble of five actors who take us back to when coal was king and the men who dug it out, deep in the bowels of the earth, were hard-working, hard-drinking and resolved issues with their fists.

The Glee Club is an outlet for emotion and sensitivity that appears on the surface to be missing from the lives of these men – and we get to enjoy some great singing.

Under the veneer of laughter, the older men are still scared by their loss and experiences during the recent second world war – while Colin Wrigglewsworth, played brilliantly by Linford Johnson, is the youngster of the group, still an innocent – dreaming of becoming a pop star.

The story of this tight-knit community and these five pit-men is told through the eyes of Colin, in the summer his innocence is lost. We see him forced to face the reality of manhood.

This is a very funny, joyful production, with some hard-hitting truths. The complexity of how the community is interlinked and interdependent is unveiled as the armour of each man is cracked open to reveal the human beneath.

The bond that holds these men together is tested within this summer of ’62 and will never be the same again.

Bantam is the larger than life joker of the pack is played by Jack Lord. And we see the tears of this clown looking for acceptance and love.

The Glee Club’s piano player, Phil Newsome played sensitively by Eamonn Riley faces his own reality that has an explosive impact on the insular community.

This is a beautiful production, that captures a working-class history time is starting to forget – and an entertaining performance from five men who can put on a show with The Glee Club.

The Glee Club is a co-production with Theatre by the Lake and Stockroom, a writers room for theatre and the Stockroom Artists. This production will be touring throughout 2022 – continuing at the Oldham Coliseum, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Gilford, Lichfield Garrick, Oxford Playhouse and Theatre Winchester.

The Glee Club runs at Theatre by the Lake until 12th March 2022. https://www.theatrebythelake.com/event/the-glee-club/

Reviewer: Karen Morley-Chesworth

Reviewed: 28th February 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★