Tuesday, 1 July 2014

'20th Century Boy' at Wimbledon Theatre

OK, so it's virtually the law that anything is happening within three miles of my house about one of the Glam Gods - in this case Marc Bolan - then I *have* to be there. On this occasion it was the '20th Century Boy' musical about Marc's life and named after one of his most iconic songs. My expectations weren't terribly high but, y'know what, I was *so* wrong! This is a fab show for anyone with the slightest interest in Marc, T.Rex or Glam.

The story is about Marc's life, the good and the bad, as discovered by his son Rolan when he comes to London from America to discover what he can about his dad's life. His mother is Gloria Jones (writer of 'Tainted Love' and other  Motown hits). Rolan arrives in London to find his uncle and Grandma who love Marc but hate his mother for driving the car that ended up killing Marc in 1977 just as his career was getting back in shape.

The early scenes show Marc becoming a godlike figure in early '70s British glam rock - it's astonishing to think how big he was and how no-one these days even comes close. The world has changed and expectations are different, but Ringo Starr and Elton John were sucking up to him at one point for his 'Born to Boogie' film. That's how big he was. Then it went wrong as the booze and drugs kicked in. Marc was getting back on track when he died in 1977, just short of his 30th birthday.

We see Marc's life acted out in front of us, from his early days as a Mod in London (played to 'London Boys') to his hippy years and development into a Glam God to fighting his way back to the top by touring with the Damned as the godfather of punk. I was enthralled by it all, by what was included from his story as well as what was omitted.

I felt uncomfortable for most of the first half about how the play was anti-Gloria for her role in driving the car that led to Marc's death but it was nice to see the final reconciliation with Marc's mother in the final scenes. Gloria is portrayed as the enemy throughout the play until the final scenes and the reconciliation is well overdue.

It's a great, fun show. By the end of the first half I was puzzling over in my mind how something like 'We Will Rock You' can run for a decade without a plot and something like '20th Century Boy' is still waiting for its chance in the West End. The songs are fab and there's a potentially huge audience so it really needs a West End home. While looking at the stage I couldn't help but think that, if it was on in the West End, it would have more scenery changes, the costumes would be better (Marc's clothes hardly seemed to fit the actor) and there would be a cast recording. Do it people. Make it happen.

It's not the most excellent piece of theatre I've ever seen but it's not half bad and a fun way to fill a few hours. The punters loved it - even the pink boas that seemed to fall to bits in front of you. Get a glitter cannon on stage for the final megamix and we'll all be happy. I'd probably buy tickets for once a month to relive the glory that was Marc.

Go on, make it happen!

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