Review: Teddy, by Tristan Bernays and Dougal Irvine, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, until March 24

Teddy, a new rock'n'roll musical at the New Wolsey Theatre - George Parker and Molly Chesworth as J

Teddy, a new rock'n'roll musical at the New Wolsey Theatre - George Parker and Molly Chesworth as Josie and Teddy. Photo: Scott Rylander - Credit: Archant

Youthful rebellion is nothing new, Teddy, a new high energy musical from Snapdragon Productions and Watermill Theatre, explodes onto the New Wolsey stage telling the story of Josie and Teddy and the social forces which shaped the teenage revolution and post-war Britain.

Teddy, a new rock'n'roll musical at the New Wolsey Theatre - l-r Harrison White, Freya Parks, Dylan

Teddy, a new rock'n'roll musical at the New Wolsey Theatre - l-r Harrison White, Freya Parks, Dylan Wood. as Johnny Valentine and The Broken Hearts. Photo: Scott Rylander - Credit: Archant

This is no ordinary nostalgia trip. This is a vibrant piece of contemporary theatre that combines original music with inventive staging that comes across as an unlikely mix of Shakespeare’s blank verse blended with the lyrical observation of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood.

This is a show that doesn’t keep still – people are moving, from lights up to black out.

Josie, played with spiky charm by Molly Chesworth, and Teddy, who is supplied with plenty of nervous swagger by George Parker, narrate their night on the town. They are both fans of Johnny Valentine and they discover he is playing a secret gig and they are determined to get to see him.

Teddy, a new rock'n'roll musical at the New Wolsey Theatre - George Parker and Molly Chesworth as J

Teddy, a new rock'n'roll musical at the New Wolsey Theatre - George Parker and Molly Chesworth as Josie and Teddy. Photo: Scott Rylander - Credit: Archant

Johnny and his band, The Broken Hearts, provide a musical Greek chorus. The songs comment on the action as well as providing a musical atmosphere.


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Josie and Teddy talk about their meeting and subsequent adventures in rhyme, as if they were reading from a fast-paced rhyming diary or teenage novel. This third person observation is cleverly interlaced with sections of dialogue, when the characters directly interact with one another, and with songs from the band.

On occasion the actors suddenly switch and become supporting players. Molly is frighteningly convincing as the thug Tully and George is touchingly believable as an elderly pawn shop owner.

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In addition to the hyper-active two lead actors who run, dance and fight their breathless way through the show, the band play an incredibly important role. They are onstage throughout and have their own characters. Dylan Wood is the super-smooth rock’n’roller Johnny Valentine who provides the vocals, accompanied by the feisty Jenny O’Malley (Freya Parks) on bass, musical director Harrison White is a stunning guitarist while Andrew Gallow is the powerhouse drummer Sammy ‘The Sticks’ Smith.

The songs capture the feel of the 1950s without ever resorting to pastiche. The music feels as if Bernays and Irvine had uncovered a stash of lost 1950s classics.

Teddy is a dazzling modern musical, bursting with energy and rocking with infectious music. It’s inventive, engaging and a total treat.

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