The Boy I Love Is Up In the Gallery

Sitembu Goro, devised by the Company
Rogues' Gallery
Hoxton Hall
(2010)

"Let's all go to the Music Hall" as the old song said. And there is no time like the present to get down to Hoxton Hall for The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery, a title which has Miss Marie Lloyd to thank for its fame, having originally been written by George Ware for Nellie Power in 1885.

Steeped in Music Hall history, Hoxton Hall first opened its doors in 1863. Nearly 150 years on, the ghosts of Music Hall past are once again summoned to the stage as this glorious form of entertainment is brought back to life for all to enjoy.

The vibrancy of Music Hall lies at the very heart of The Boy I Love as it tells the tales of entertainers from a bygone era, whilst reminding us that "our lives are composed of many acts." First the audience meet Hannah Chaplin and a variety of other characters before finally getting a glimpse of young Charlie himself as they become privy to the circumstances which led to this star of the silver screen's Music Hall debut.

The trio of Victoria Lupton, Tim Pritchett and Lydia Rose Bewley deserve equal star billing in this most enjoyable evening of entertainment. In true Music Hall style, each performer sings, dances and acts their way through the proceedings accompanied by live tinklings on a piano downstage right.

As the performance progresses the actors' real talent, like the light bulbs dangling above them, well and truly shines. The narrative structure calls for numerous characters as each Music Hall star gets their turn in the spotlight and the three actors play their myriad roles with ease; each one perfectly formed, complete with Music Hall charm and finesse.

It is a rare treat to see some of the old Music Hall songs and acts come alive and they sit perfectly in this newly devised piece which captures the spirit of the Halls beautifully. Just like the proceedings in the Music Hall, some acts will be favoured more than others, but unfortunately this audience member did not approve of the inclusion of a special guest star.

Beau Burlington's burlesque act is indeed most amusing and skilfully executed, but it jarred with the strong Music Hall era feel of the piece and appeared out of place. A clever device to introduce new acts each night and thus gain a wider audience, the guest star unfortunately adds nothing to the show and stalls the proceedings before picking the narrative back up again. Although it reminds us of Music Hall's influence and presence in a wide range of theatrical genres, the five minutes dedicated to a different contemporary act each night would be better spent further exploring the interesting Music Hall characters from the past in a one-acter which is already pressed for time, running as it does at around an hour and ten minutes.

Credit must go to Sitembu Goro and director Oliver Rose for crafting such a fine piece of theatre. So much more than biography or a trip down memory lane, The Boy I Love brings history alive and allows the audience to experience the Music Hall whilst learning something about it and its stars.

The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery is a most wonderful evening of entertainment, with all the charm, wit and sauce of the Music Halls. As the song mentioned at the beginning of this review rightly advises: "There's no entertainment like the good old music hall / That's the place to go to when the evening shadows fall / If you want a spot of laughter when you're feeling blue / Go and book yourself a seat or line up in a queue."

Playing in repertoire with 'She Stoops to Conquer' until 30th October 2010.

Simon Sladen