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20th Century Boy (Ipswich)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
There’s a lot of sound and quite a bit of fury. It’s fair to say that the first-night audience was extremely enthusiastic, but what for? A large creative team – writers Peter Rowe and Gary Lloyd (who also directs) with input from Brian Dunham, Colin Giffin and Nicky Graham and an excellent set design from Patrick Connellan – has put the sad story of Marc Bolan in front of us.

The main trouble, for me at any rate, is that the narrative and the tribute band element don’t really meld. Partly it’s the story of a quest; Bolan’s son Rolan leaves the US for London to discover more about the father who died (in a horrific car crash) when he was only two. His mother, soul singer Gloria Jones, was the driver on that night and has mixed feelings about her own guilt, her son’s journey and how he will react to the facts and the people he may encounter.

As Rolan (Craig Storrod) begins to track down his quarry, we see how the young would-be poet (George Maguire) developed from a basic three-chord wannabee into the personification of 60s and 70s pop rock. The on-stage persona, fuelled by a lethal mixture of hard drugs and alcohol, twists into something unpleasantly ruthless. It’s very good acting, a rounded portrait of a man who fatally believes his own legend and discards on the way the people who created it.

Among these is his business manager and wife June Cild. Jenna Lee-James gives her credibility and is moving in her discovery of just how and to whom Bolan has moved on. She also sings very well and dominates the vocal ensembles which provide a commentary on the story so far. The other casts members double several roles and provide the changing personnel of Bolan’s various backing bands – not to mention managers of several degrees of disinterestedness.


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