Mercury Young Company
at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester
As part of their commitment to the community they serve, the Mercury's creative team works with young performers, from 16 to 25 years old, to bring a performance to the main stage. The youngsters are not all on stage – the band, and the backstage team, are drawn from this pool of local talent.
Last year it was Quadrophenia, this year's it's Pink Floyd's The Wall. Roger Waters' tale of isolation and oppression has been through many transformations since the vinyl double album charted in 1979 – not least the Floyd's own mega-theatrical performances, and the Alan Parker movie of 1982.
Gari Jones's new version is tailored to the strengths of this energetic company. An effective chorus – groupies or stormtroopers – and three Pinks to support Perry Baird in the lead role, a reclusive rock star largely modelled on Waters himself.
The impressive design – Sara Perks – is spare, with many bricks missing, an upper level for the band and the “secret location”, much smoke and a gauze curtain of bricks, used to superb effect for the spectres at the top of part two - “Hey You!”.
More than a hint of the stadium in the lighting and the big numbers, but plenty of stronger, subtler ideas too, like the balletic ombres chinoises or the young schoolboy Pink in his fever downstage, connected in agony with his older self “holed up” in his eyrie.
Strong vocal work from the principals, and some excellent instrumentals from the band [MD Robert Miles]. Some of the ensemble movement work could be sharper, and the weight of numbers sometimes made the story hard to follow – not that the narrative thread is especially clear in any case; this is not Tommy.
“Does anyone here remember Vera Lynn?” - almost certainly not, and, though there were obvious Floyd fans amongst the audience, this prog-rock classic must be as remote as Puccini to the young cast.
It's a demanding score, operatic and fragmented, but the quality of the performances, and Gari Jones's epic vision, makes this a striking theatrical exploration of apocalypse and youthful angst.
production photo: Robert Day