Threads is on until this Saturday.
Featuring hit songs such as Tina Turner’s The Best and Madonna’s Like A Prayer, this 80s & 90s jukebox musical is a story about friendship and the family we choose.
Written by Joshua Taylor-Williams – who was named Star of Musical Con 2022 – the narrative follows two best friends Marcus (Taylor-Williams) and Marie (Ellie Thompson) who attempt to navigate their way through the turmoil of the Aids crisis. While this show is full of laughter and upbeat classic songs, rest assured the heavy subject matter is handled with care.
The team sought the expertise of Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity working to stop new cases of HIV, which guided them on the history of the disease, how it was spread, and the lasting effects to families, allowing them to develop their characters and portray their stories in a realistic and respectful manner.
Those not old enough to remember the AIDS epidemic and who have seen Channel 4’s It’s a Sin will be familiar with this period in history as told through the lives of the young people at the centre of gay community in the 80s and 90s. Threads pulls off its own take on the crisis with grace.
Sponsorship was secured from Indigo Pubs & Bars which comprises of Leicester venues Helsinki, Rainbow & Dove and Dover Castle. Decorated with musical theatre references, there’s also a club scene where characters dance at Leicester’s very own Dover Castle – an amusing nod that I imagine would work well in other local areas if this show were ever to go on tour.
The show is jam packed full of 80s classics and 90s dance tunes that leave you feeling cheery. However, I feel fewer songs could have saved on the running time as this was a long show! Some numbers had lengthy instrumentals that wouldn’t be missed if cut.
Taylor-Williams wrote in another pleasing in-joke for locals who have seen Williams Creatives shows in previous years. They paid homage to the group’s trilogy of shows named Miscast, which received a warm laugh. This audience also enjoyed references to Ghost the Musical. And a clever scene in which one character dressed in black, hiding in the dark repeatedly calling a house phone was reminiscent of the famous stalker scene in the musical adaptation of The Bodyguard.
This is the first all-female production team for Williams Creatives. Cathy Robinson’s direction brought us fully-developed characters with convincing relationships. Contemporary and symbolic choreography by Jade Afflick-Goodall was cleverly woven into scenes, carrying the narrative. Harmonies were beautifully executed under the musical director of Emmeline Pearson. Emmeline herself played the singer in a wedding scene – there’s a soulful tone to her voice that is captivating.
Taylor-Williams’ powerhouse vocals are not to be missed. Unfortunately, there were some mic issues with feedback which cut into some of his early act one songs. There’s a gentle, convincing chemistry between Marcus and his partner Richard (Matt Brown). Marcus is an admirable, loving and passionate character who puts friendship before all else.
It's hard not to fall in love with lead character Marie. Thompson portrays the happy-go-lucky Marie endearingly. Her excellent vocals were a highlight, and it was a joy to watch her character develop through the motions of wedding day build up through to pregnancy and beyond.
The role of 15-year-old Kathryn (Isla Singleton) is a heavy role for an actor of such a young age. She pulled it off perfectly, with strong vocals too. Without spoilers, her emotional ending was a standout performance.
Brown is loveable as Richard. He did a fine job of taking on the role just days before opening night. Our well wishes to Alex Tomlinson who was originally cast. Show stealer Bertie Black as Angelou rocks distinctive vocals with a heart of gold. He delivers Angelou’s touching story with finesse, and it will stay with you. Natasha Plummer played the snappy, confident fashion producer Kayleigh. I knew from her performance in the ensemble of WC’s 2022 jukebox musical Miscast that Natasha was made for bigger roles and I look forward to seeing her as a principal character in the future.
Scenery was handmade by the cast themselves and was very effective throughout depicting the home of Marcus, Marie and Richard on the left-hand side of the stage. Stage right allowed the audience to see scenes taking place at the same time. This was a clever choice as it showed the effect of Aids disease on one hand, while life continues on the other.
A unique and thought-provoking show.
See Threads at Sue Townsend theatre until Saturday, July 8.