Friday 23 February 2024

Just For One Day - Review

Old Vic, London


Book by John O'Farrell
Directed by Luke Sheppard

Craige Els

In a fabulous musical tribute to the 80s, Just For One Day takes David Bowie’s lyric as a link back to the global phenomenon that was the Live Aid concert of July 1985 and the Band Aid single that had preceded it in Christmas 1984. For the over-45s in the audience it is an evening of unashamed nostalgia as hit after hit is pumped out from the outstanding onstage band and sung by a cast who are all at the top of their musical theatre game.

Disbeliefs need to be seriously suspended though, for while Craige Els offers up a decent Bob (Geldof) and Jack Shallo (vocally at least) a passable Midge Ure (younger readers please Google) the other characterisations don’t quite hit the spot. 

John O’Farrell’s book crafts a corny tale that follows composite fictional character, Suzanne, from her teens in the 20th century to a middle-aged woman today, looking back at the excitement of the concert in her youth. There’s also Amara, a relief worker working at the famine’s coalface in Africa who takes us through the horrors and the challenges of what the epic fundraiser was all about.

On the night of this review, understudy Kerry Enright stepped up to the role of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, bringing just the right of comedy to counter the gravitas and delivering the show’s one original number written for the theatre, a rap duet with her and Els’ Bob: Mrs T/Mr G.

Soutra Gilmour’s striking set is driven by gig lights encased in a floor-to-ceiling 3-sided video box. It’s a stark concept that works well, conveying the rushed and improvised aura that actually belied the brilliant execution of both Band Aid and Live Aid.  

The stars of the show however are unquestionably Patrick Hurley’s 6-piece band, with standout guitar work from Matt Isaac and Kobi Pham. These musicians have the unenviable task of recreating many of the greatest rock songs ever recorded and they do so sensationally. Their work alone is worth the ticket price.

Runs until 30th March

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