The Who’s Tommy at Birmingham Rep

by Dave Massey

Tommy at Birmingham Rep

At Birmingham Rep until Saturday 27th May, The Who’s Tommy is loud, brash and unapologetic for its tone. The first snapshot is of a man on his own in 2017, and the videos of street protests about cuts to disability benefits play on a white mesh curtain, with the company of performers in chorus behind him.

Julian Capolei, William Grint and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan.
Julian Capolei, William Grint and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan.

We then jump back in time to 1940 to witness Tommy (William Grint) being born and his father (Max Runham) going away to war while his mother remains at home to raise him. Tommy’s mother Nora (Donna Mullings) is told that her husband is presumed dead at war and some time later his mother meets a new man (Alim Jayda) . Time jumps forward again and Tommy’s father returns from war to find his wife with this new man. What happens next made me wish I’d done a bit of research of this show! This all plays out in a matter of MINUTES and sets the tone for the entire show.

Tommy is a rock-opera with a lot to say for itself.

From child abuse, to religion, to bullying the show is at times uncomfortable to watch without foreknowledge of its direction. However its audience is hugely passionate and appears to have championed it for many years.

It’s not a spoiler to say that Tommy eventually discovered a love of pinball machines, the set itself is designed like the inside of a giant pinball machine, all flashing lights on the floor and walls. This discovered skill provides a much needed bright path in an otherwise heavy musical drama.

The cast includes actors in wheelchairs, actors with additional hearing requirements and actors with physical differences. Its great seeing a show acknowledge the wider community and the reality of issues that people faced and trying to escape from the shackles of that.

Foreground - Max Runham as Captain Walker. A New Wolsey Theatre Production in co-production with Ramps on the Moon. Photo Mike Kwasniak
Max Runham as Captain Walker (Centre) Photo by Mike Kwasniak

Tommy’s audience loved it!

You can buy tickets to The Who’s Tommy at the Birmingham Rep here:

I was invited to see The Who’s Tommy by the Birmingham Rep. These are my own views.