Pop Music

Anna Jordan
Hull Truck Theatre Company
Hull Truck Theatre

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David Ahman and Natalie Anderson Credit: Ian Hodgson
Natalie Anderson and David Ahmad Credit: Ian Hodgson

It’s getting towards the end of the evening. The bride and groom have long since departed, the remains of the wedding cake resemble a vandalised sculpture and the dance floor is empty, save for a pool of red wine and a couple of drunken guests.

We’ve all been there.

Into this world stumbles Kayla (Natalie Anderson) and G (David Ahmad), reluctantly single guests at a wedding, somewhat the worse for wear, but determined to stay until the free bar is run dry and the DJ has gone home. Over the next 80 minutes, the pair—sometimes painfully, sometimes joyously—revisit moments of their lives through a succession of ‘tracks of their years’, familiar '90s anthems, dancing and singing along. Frankly, that they could still stand after the amount of wine they necked is a miracle, let alone move expertly through the choreography of the never less than excellent Jon Beney.

Anna Jordan’s two-hander, Pop Music, received rave reviews when it first appeared in 2018 and this is a worthy revival. Both actors give everything to their roles, physically and emotionally. However, whilst suitably energetic and pacy, Mark Babych’s production feels a touch overwrought at times, the constant soundtrack inhibiting the actors from displaying greater nuance that some moments need. Accepting that microphones are necessary in a play where music is a continual feature, there were occasional problems with clarity, which was not helped by too speedy a delivery. Notwithstanding, this tale of loss, forced jollity and thwarted ambition undoubtedly connected with the enthusiastic audience on the evening I watched.

Staging the production in the round enhanced the ‘dance-floor’ feel to the show and Caitlin Mawhinney’s design is a triumph. There is a gaudy superficiality about the decorated chairs and suspended wine glasses that provides the ideal background to the characters’ thinly veiled and increasingly obvious pain.

Undoubtedly the high point of the drama is the ‘reveal’ towards the end when we realise the previous connection between the two characters—beautifully played by both actors. Their use of music to hide behind as well as to explore their lives is only truly understood in the final silence.

For all its merits and the writer’s deserved renown, Pop Music was a play that left me cold. The dynamic of constantly having to react physically and vocally to the different tracks prevented a subtler or more complex development of the characters’ relationship. Each new track was greeted with an increasingly predictable “OMG” moment of recognition which began to pall after a while. And whilst the finale was played with all due sensitivity, I found the characters too self-obsessed to elicit much sympathy. However, in fairness, the standing ovation at the curtain-call more than indicated that mine was a rogue opinion!

Reviewer: Richard Vergette

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