Porthcawl Comp’s high energy show has a touch of magic about it Review by Philip Irwin

Friday, 29 January 2016

By Philip Irwin

in Entertainment

There is a moment in Porthcawl Comprehensive’s production of We Will Rock You, in Porthcawl’s Grand Pavilion, when the show moves up from very good to joyous – and I’ve never said that before about a school show.

I certainly never thought I’d say it about We Will Rock You, a ’juke box musical’ with a daft plot, but the theatre has the power to surprise you, and the pupils on stage did just that.

The moment (for me) came just before the intermission when four of the principals, Jack Davies (Galileo), Anna Arrieta (Scaramouche), Molly Brace (Meat) and James Evan-Jones (Britney) were singing and dancing to ’Headlong’ – a song that only die-hard Queen fans will know well.

It was the moment when the four seemed to realise that they had the audience in the palm of their hand. Stage presence rubbed off from one to the other and it all looked so easy.

To throw in a naff X Factor line ’They owned the stage’ – and they knew it. From here on in, everything was coming up roses.

Of course, you don’t get these moments without a lot of groundwork, and everyone on stage did their bit. The choreography (by Rhian Atherton) was slick and sharp, and we found out early that the band was first class.

It was great to see that, come the end of the show, the six musicians, with musical director Rhiannon Giles, were given their own very well-deserved ovation.

The principals had to make things come together, and Jack Davies was at the forefront. Galileo is confused. His head is buzzing with phrases he doesn’t understand. We recognise them as pop and rock lyrics, but he is in turmoil, playing the character as an unwilling host to alien ideas.

His body jerks and twitches and rushes round the stage, muttering to himself like a demented Woody Allen.

His vocals get stronger and stronger as the show progresses, as his character finds his sense of purpose, until at the end he is a dominant figure.

The cast do have an unusual problem with the vocals, simply because Anna Arrieta sets the bar so high. Scaramouche’s big number (’Somebody to Love’) comes early in the show and it is so unusual to find a schoolgirl with such a strong, clear rock voice.

She hasn’t come through the usual musical theatre route, and she looked a touch nervous at the start when it came to dialogue, but she got more and more confident as the evening progressed. The fact that her character gets the best jokes helped quite a bit too.

As the villains, Rhiannon Griffiths (Killer Queen) and Rhys Owen (Kashoggi), have plenty to get their teeth into. Killer Queen is an over-the-top role and that is where Rhiannon goes, really enjoying being the epitome of evil. She is very good in the close-up scenes shown on the video screen too.

Rhys has plenty of scope with Kashoggi. He is a suave Bond villain when left to his own devices, but when the Killer Queen is around he is Smithers to her Mr Burns.

He only gets one song (Seven Seas of Rhye) but he makes the most of it.

Molly Brace and James Evans-Jones make a late appearance in the show, but it is when they appear that you realise how much depth there is in this cast, and they do combine with Jack Davies and Anna Arrieta to really kick the show onwards and upwards.

It’s amazing to think that Jack and James will be back on the Grand Pavilion stage in just over a fortnight, playing Riff and Tony in the Bridgend Youth Theatre’s West Side Story.

Max Bravery (Pop) has a long wait before he is centre stage but he makes the most of it, demonstrating a flair for comedy as the show moves towards its ending.

To be honest, I’ve left a few high point out so as not to spoil it. Do not, on any account, miss the finale.

We Will Rock You will never be a favourite of mine, and I could do without the mawkish parade of dead rock stars that you get during the song, ’Only the good die young’, but that is a minor quibble.

Director Kelly Hardwick has helped her cast work a bit of magic out there, and that is something to be proud of. The show looks great too, and production manager Joe Smith should be praised for his efforts.

We Will Rock You is on tonight (Friday) and on Saturday afternoon. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket.

All photographs by Malcolm Nugent. (See next week’s GEM for more photos.)