A really interesting take on a musical with impressive character work.
Initially, I had no idea what Teddy would entail. I knew it was set in post-war London and was accompanied by a rock-and-roll soundtrack, but I had no idea how enjoyable it would be. However, it was all those things and more in a completely different and surprising way. The show consisted of only two people playing all the characters involved in the story with a supporting band.
My first point, it being a “musical”, is about the music itself. Unfortunately, I completely disagree with the way the show is marketed. It wasn’t a musical, in my opinion, more of a play with a soundtrack that fundamentally ties the story together. This did in no way mean the show wasn’t good because of it, I just think that in terms of describing the show, the term musical is inaccurate. The music itself though was really well played and performed by the band Johnny Valentine and the Broken Hearts, who perfectly complimented the story line and the emotional high and low points of the characters. The two components, the acting of the play and the music accompanying it, worked well together cohesively and didn’t feel jarring.
The show itself was very well structured. The input of the band was never out of place and really helped create an atmosphere. Furthermore, the writing of the book was really naturalistic and realistic in terms of who the characters and their backgrounds. There was also a really interesting use of rhyming couplets that gave it a quasi-Shakespearean atmosphere that didn’t jar with the time in which the story was set.
The two actors also expertly played every other character, making use of impressive physicality and characterisations that really gave an honest atmosphere. The characters of Josie and Teddy were also complete individually. Josie in particular was impressive because she portrayed a form of feminism that pushed for equality rather than dominance, which was really refreshing to see especially from a male writer (Tristan Bernays). Molly Chesworth (Josie) was the stand-out for me: her use of body language to create characters was wonderful, especially when switching from Josie to someone else; each character was fully formed and identifiable.
The staging was really impressive as well, with an interesting mix of contemporary and vintage. There were also two levels, allowing for more movement within the piece as well as to improve sight-lines. I do think that the staging was slightly underused; there could have been much more movement and interactions with the minimalist props given. Furthermore, there was a brick construction in the middle of the stage around which the actors moved but its identity was not clear and nor was its use: had it been more specifically used for a scene, its presence would be justified. Another small issue is that the band was out of some seats’ sight lines. This wasn’t a major issue, but it would have been nice to have been able to see the performance of Johnny Valentine and the Broken Hearts in full swing.
The costumes were similarly well chosen; Teddy’s suit was really well put together and I loved the green tones used that made the set a bit more vibrant due to muted colours being used in the set and on Josie. The costumes helped place the story firmly in the ’50s, whilst also showing the similarities to modern fashion. Overall, it was a really innovative piece of theatre that made me smile due to the light-heartedness of the music and the impressive acting abilities of the characters involved. A really lovely night out!
Teddy is at the NST Campus from the 26th of February to the 3rd of March 2018.