mojo

01:04

It’s the dawn of the Rock and Roll era in London's Soho. Sleazy underworld bar, Ezra’s Atlantic, is drawing in the crowds thanks to young-gun singing sensation Silver Johnny. That is until he goes missing and Ezra, the owner of said bar, is found dead in two (yes, two) bins out the back. What follows is an interesting insight into the lesser known world of 1950s mob culture and a subtle exploration of male sexuality.

The acting is certainly what carries this production. By no means is Butterworth a bad writer – in fact, many could learn from his understanding of how comedy works in the theatre, and the way in which he is able to write his characters with such understated depth – but there is just something that doesn’t quite feel right about this play. It’s a gripping few hours, thanks to its intensity and fast-paced dialogue, but the ending leaves much to be desired. It’s limp, lack-lustre and, quite frankly, confusing.

Tom Rhys Harries, as Silver Johnny, opens with a high energy performance that immediately immerses the audience in the show, and for that he deserves credit. His ability to hang by his ankles for a considerable period of time – so much so that his face turns pinker than his shirt – only to then get up and run up a fairly sizeable staircase is also worth a mention.

Brendan Coyle’s hard-headed Mickey is certainly a man who means business. He is not one to be messed with, and no one except Ezra’s psychotic son Baby tries. This is a role that Coyle feels suited to – he has a rather imposing air about him when stood on stage – and one that he plays well.

In awe of baby and finding a father figure in Mickey, Colin Morgan’s Skinny is, at times, infuriating to watch as he tells tales and seemingly goes behind the backs of the other lads, but the final scene catastrophically changes the entire play, and Morgan’s acting abilities shine through. His pleas for Mickey to help him as his brain slowly shuts down are almost unbearable, and at times it can be a struggle to keep watching. Performed with true sensitivity and pathos, this is perhaps the star moment of the show.

Ben Whishaw proves once again that he is one of the finest actors around, playing the psychotic Baby with seeming ease, as if it were his everyday state. He is not ‘Ben Whishaw playing Baby’. He is Baby. His whole being is taken over by the character – he visibly cries and shakes at certain points – and you can see it during the curtain call when the man who walks out to take his bow is not the man you have just seen on stage. It really is something else to watch. A word must also be said about his remarkable voice when belting out songs such as Be-Bop-A-Lula – it is understandable as to why he has been cast as Freddie Mercury in the upcoming biopic.

It is Daniel Mays, however, who steals the show. His performance is electric, a masterclass in acting. He and Rupert Grint play the drug dealing duo of the club: the wannabe maverick, Potts, and the naïve and rather dim Sweets. Mays and Grint have fine-tuned their double act so that it runs like a well-oiled machine, bouncing off each other with finesse. There are no awkward pauses in sight – quite impressive for a play with dialogue so fast-paced it must be tricky even for those who’ve heard it a thousand times to keep up. One could be forgiven for believing that they were taking method acting to a whole new level by popping pills every show, so intense are their performances. Tough as it will be for Grint to shake off Ron Weasley, performances like this will certainly help him on his way.

Any production with a cast as strong as that of Mojo is going to bring in an audience, and bring in an audience it should. A fantastic ensemble performance that strengthens a somewhat underwhelming play, Mojo is well worth your time and your money.

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