Rockin Chair, Cardiff
Wed 24 Oct
words: TOM MATTHEWS
As a general rule, I really don’t like musicals. I’ll be watching what appears to be a perfectly good play and then someone goes and spoils it by awkwardly breaking into a ridiculously descriptive song. But I have to admit that Rude: A Ska Musical is good enough to have completely changed my mind.
Originally performed two years ago, Give It A Name have revived Rude for Black History Month Wales with a run at the Rockin Chair Caribbean restaurant in Riverside, Cardiff. During an ambush intro, smoothly worked into an improvised conversation with the audience, main character and narrator Roddy, played by Dean Rehman, poses the question: “Where were you the day John Lennon died?” Well, I wasn’t yet born in December 1980, but that didn’t stop the musical from drawing me in to Roddy’s world of ska tunes, dole queue scuffles and Fred Perry polo shirts.
A musical in a pub-cum-eatery may sound odd, but the Rockin Chair proves itself to be the perfect venue. We’re promised immersion, invention and interaction, and these things are delivered through clever use of the surroundings – the actors fixing the Ford Cortina that is your table or fist fighting over the chair opposite. Another bonus is that early arrivals can dine on some fine authentic Caribbean food.
The soundtrack includes several of the greatest ska and reggae hits. Performed by a seven piece band, some of whom also form part of the cast, the music is infectious, and songs slip seamlessly into the storyline. Singer and actor Oliver Wood delivers a versatile performance, especially amusing as Roddy’s mother. In addition to the music, locals will love the frequent nods to the Cardiff hot spots of old.
Though the story is by no means deep, the memories of writer and original rudeboy Tony Wright, wedded with songs that capture the spirit of an era so well, make Rude a vibrant tale of romance, race, class and culture in the melting pot that was 1980s Cardiff.
Rude: A Ska Musical runs until Sat 3 Nov at the Rocking Chair. Tickets are available from Chapter Arts Centre.