Quadrophenia at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre review

The Who’s historic album Quadrophenia, which illustrates the Mod culture of the mid 1960s, has spawned an iconic film and now 36 years later a Rock Opera. Fresh from its premiere in Plymouth and subsequent showing in Birmingham Quadrophenia has arrived in Edinburgh for a five night run at the Festival Theatre.

Quadrophenia, The Rock Opera, promotional image

Quadrophenia is played out on stage through the eyes of Jimmy - unable to fit in with his dysfunctional family he rebels by immersing himself in the Mod scene of the Sixties. Despite the waning of the Mod movement, Jimmy refuses to let go - with a descent into lunacy the result. Unlike the film Jimmy is played on stage by four different actors, who simultaneously illustrate each quarter of his personality: romantic, tough guy, lunatic and hypocrite. The plot and which of Jimmys’ personalities are at play are often lucid, especially during a chaotic and high impact performance of ‘Doctor Jimmy’. Though at times spotting the personality or following the plot becomes more of a challenge. I recommend a brief recap of, or introduction to the story behind each song of the Quadrophenia double album before seeing this Rock Opera.

With music, lyrics and concept by Pete Townshend, the stage adaption has been well crafted by Jeff Young, John O’Hara and Tom Critchley. A large band justly bring Quadrophenia to life and deliver a mostly note perfect extended play of the album. At times though the power of the band somewhat dilutes the vocals, which are partially integral to understanding Jimmy’s journey. Standout performances are two different renditions of ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, firstly by ‘The Girl’ (Sydney Rae White) and latterly Jimmy The Romantic (Ryan O’Donnell). These prove compelling and emotive; boosting what is an already skilled, accomplished and hugely entertaining vocal performance by the whole cast.

The audience at the opening night of Quadrophenia in Edinburgh was a wide demographic - the masterpiece that is The Who’s Quadrophenia album and the timeless, familiar story of Jimmy should ensure Quadrophenia, like the original album, has a sell by date well past the 6 month tour. For the music alone Quadrophenia would be worth a watch, but thankfully a fitting Rock Opera has been created to run alongside the soundtrack.

Quadrophenia is showing at The Edinburgh Festival Theatre until the 30th May. Tickets are available via calling 0131 529 6000 or online. Check out the official website for details of the Quadrophenia, which includes runs at Glasgow, Aberdeen, Manchester and Liverpool.

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