Review: Pop Music at Birmingham Rep

by Julie Wallis

Pop Music at Birmingham Rep

Pop Music is at Birmingham Rep until 22nd September and it is a real unexpected delight. With a tiny cast of three and not a great deal of story, Pop Music still manages to pack in tears, laughter, lots of laughter and every other human emotion.

G, (Rakesh Boury) as he likes to be known now and Kayla (Katherine Kotz) are at the wedding of Jade and Miles, we never see Jade and Miles. Chatting and dancing G and Kayla realise they were at school together and so begins a journey through time, as they reminisce about first kisses, old boyfriends, first cars and old wounds. As the playlist at the wedding of the still unseen Jade and Miles becomes some sort of therapy. Not all their musically associated memories are good ones, but with every tune comes another burst of nostalgia.

Katherine Kotz (Kayla) Ciaran Alexander Stewart (Remix) & Rakesh Boury (G)
Katherine Kotz (Kayla) Ciaran Alexander Stewart (Remix) & Rakesh Boury (G)

There is music playing throughout and an unseen DJ, sometimes G and Kayla just exclaim “I love this tune” as they drop straight into a dance routine for a Madonna or Whigfield track, other times, they speak of an associated memory that the song brings up, speaking rhythmically in time with the music as we discover more and more about them.

Ciaran Alexander Stewart is the third person on stage, predominantly providing sign language translation, but also plays all other guests. Credited as Remix on the programme, Ciaran signs, sings and dances his way through the full 90 minutes with a big smile throughout and he has some terrific dance moves too. If you don’t at least smile at Ciaran’s Beyoncé routine then check your pulse, as you may already be dead.

As well as Ciaran doing BSL throughout, there was a screen with subtitles too. Although with frequent swearing this may not be suitable for everyone, there really was a lot for me to love.

Pop Music - Katherine Kotz (Kayla)
Pop Music – Katherine Kotz (Kayla)

Being shown in the smaller Studio space at Birmingham Rep rather than the main stage, Pop Music works really well because of the size and the closeness of the audience. It was much easier for us the audience to be a part of the wedding reception when we were touching distance from the dance floor, er sorry, stage.

It is worth knowing that there is no interval in this production, I don’t usually take a drink into the auditorium but last night I did. I’m glad I did, I felt more like I was part of Jade and Miles wedding because I was able to toast the bride and groom.
With no set changes at all, just the clever use of audience imagination we begin with the church service before heading to the reception. All the set consists of is some strategically placed balloons and presto! It’s a wedding reception.

It’s very fast paced and easy to miss some of the lines as Kayla and G slowly get drunk, I particularly loved “granddads fake hips become snake hips” and actually found myself checking the subtitles to verify that I had heard that correctly. There are some lovely little lines like that, that can very easily be missed.

Pop Music
Pop Music

With G and Kayla reminiscing over music from the 80s, the era of Madonna and Michael Jackson, through the rave scene and Brit pop I enjoyed a few tuneful memories of my own too. I love the way music is the nearest thing we have to time travel, obviously Anna Jordan knew music is a form of time travel when she wrote this, she perfectly captures the way a few notes from 30 years ago can immediately take you back to another place, another life.

Last night, I wasn’t a middle aged grandmother, at least when Whigfield was singing Saturday night, I was mum to three little girls who were practicing the dance routine complete with towels on their heads, fresh from their bath. Where do the years go? Pop Music catapulted me through the decades and I was there with G and Kayla. Last night ended with a very loud, standing ovation, so it wasn’t just me that loved my journey through the decades.

Pop Music is at Birmingham Rep until Saturday 22nd September. Book tickets here:

This isn’t a sponsored post. #BrumHour was invited to see Pop Music by Birmingham Rep.