The Miami Show Story, Theatre Review
By Conor O’Neill
The Grand Opera House is buzzing. Marie Jones and Martin Lynch’s newest collaboration has been on the tip of many a tongue for month’s now and now out for its second airing there isn’t a seat to be had. And that’s the situation for the rest of the initial week. The press officer tells me even the first week’s matinees are sell-outs. Will the hype be worth the wait?
It’s not a musical, rather a piece of musical theatre. ‘The Miami Showband’, three little words that are more often that not the next word is ‘massacre’. The act of terrorism that ended the lives of three of the band member occurred in 1975. Just a little before my time. Until seeing this show I was unaware of just how many of their songs I knew. My mum and dad saw them many years ago before family got in the way of their fun. Thankfully collaborators Marie Jones and Martin Lynch spend the first act focusing on their formation.
As with all bands and teenagers without vast amounts of money, a lot is made of little. An early scene has future band member playing on a washboard, brushes hooked up with wire a and bin standing in for percussion, reminiscent of John Lennon’s first foray into music with the pre-Beatles skiffle band The Quarrymen. It wasn’t until researching the Miami Showband I found that were known back in the day as The Irish Beatles.
As the band’s merry-go-round of member come and go and the music gets better and better we learn of the industry back in the late sixties and early seventies. Not much has changed; shady managers, late nights encroaching on family life and devoted followers being a little too devoted and in modern times would probably lead to restraining orders and super injunctions.
Throughout all this there is always that nagging feeling of ‘when’. That ‘when’ is never referred to before the interval. The queues for the loos for most shows is a walk in the proverbial park for us of the XY nature. Not so this one. As much as the Miami Showband brought communities together back in the darkest days of the troubles, tonight sees as many men queuing as is the norm for the women. So long was the queue I found it easier to run across to Glengall bus station than to wait my turn.
You can normally tell of how the audience is finding the performance by earwigging during the interval. The crowd is those of a certain definition and strangers were vaping to smokers they’d never met like they were in their teens and twenties. All words were positive though there was a sense of foreboding.
The second act soon loses the innocence of the first. The massacre comes as a shock. Director, Ruth Carney’s handling of such a delicate matter neither shies away from the brutality nor wallows in it. It’s arguably one of the most modern scenes I’ve witnessed in a GBL production.
What is possibly as shocking and moving is the aftermath. Jones and Lynch who are of an age to remember both the band and the tragedy don’t mix their words. The frivolity of the beginning is matched by the grief of the survivors. As for the acting, at least four of the nine play multiple roles. Some of them are equally talented on various instruments so much so I had to squint to see who was faking and who was making.
If there are to be changes to be made I would shave 10 minutes off each act and if possible have a live band in the pit. But given the logistics of moving, feeding and paying so many cast and crew it wouldn’t be financially practical to.
The Miami Showband Story plays at the Grand Opera House up to and including Saturday, August 17th with a matinee on Saturday afternoon.
To book you ticket phone the box office on 02890 241919 or visit http://www.goh.co.uk
For details on the tour visit http://www.gblproductions.com