Tim Healy, a co-founder of Live Theatre, returns to the venue with a new Alan Plater production, Looking for Buddy, which is a jazz musical.
Healy plays Phil an architect whose own business is on the skids until a mysterious blonde walks in to his office, by mistake, or was it a mistake? Phil talks to the audience and the production style is that of the characters own favourite author Raymond Chandler. The whole play is very reminiscent of the old Bogart films, with Philip Marlowe describing the action and the blonde like Lauren Bacall.
The basis of the plot revolves around a redevelopment corporation trying to regenerate North Tyneside and turn Wallsend in to two championship golf courses. Phil agrees to try and put a stop to the process and save a club in Wallsend along the way. But along the way he needs to find a recording of Buddy Bolden, a legendary trumpet player. There are only two problems, first of all Buddy died over thirty years ago and secondly, as far as anyone knows he never made a recording.
There are plenty local references in the story as we are taken from the Lit and Phil to the Banks of the Tyne and Wallsend. There is plenty of humour and Plater hits the mark each time with his jokes. I can think of no other production that could mention both Mickey Rooney and Dennis Wise virtually in the same sentence and get the best laughs of the night.
Healy is ably support by his fellow cast members and a great three pieced band who belt out the jazz numbers. Although Act One had too many songs, which slowed the action, in act two the cast appeared more at ease, the humour flowed better and the songs were excellent. In fact there are at least two numbers that I would like to hear again if ever there was a recording.
Looking for Buddy is certainly different and there is nothing wrong in that, in fact it gives its a unique charm all of its own. Did we find Buddy? Well that would be telling but it is a fun journey finding.
- John Dixon