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The People’s Rock review at Vaults, London – ‘ambitious, but incoherent new musical’

The People's Rock at Vaults, London. Photo: Ceci Mazzarella
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There’s the kernel of a good idea here. Using Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a semi-ironic symbol of hope against the belligerent bleakness of Trump has a certain esoteric charm to it, but the execution falls flat.

Tee is a teenager living in 2050 “Greater” America, a dystopian dictatorship where Trump’s voice honks from loudhailers, everyone works down mines or at building walls, and people who have been fired disappear without trace. People, that is, like Tee’s hero (also inexplicably her alarm clock), the Rock.

All-female writing collective Nevertheless She’s new three-person musical follows Tee as she learns the truth about the Rock’s disappearance and, aided by a puppet fairy Rockmother, starts to resist the system in her own modest way.

The songs are fine, a crowbarred-in gamut of style-hopping numbers ranging from classic show tunes to pumping pop-rock ballads to spaced-out Enya-esque slow-burners. But beyond that, The People’s Rock manages to be both boring and bewildering.

The dialogue is one of the main problems. It’s pretty poor, and the three cast members all appear to be on entirely different wavelengths. Francesca Mintowt throws herself into the role o Tee with the gusto of a children’s TV presenter, John McEwan-Whyte is surly and sulky as her brother, and Jiggy Bhore’s Grandmother feels underrehearsed.

If it’s meant to be social satire, it’s not funny enough. If it’s meant to be an Orwellian allegory, it’s not sufficiently defined. And if it’s meant to be a throwaway piece of silliness, why is it performed with apparently irony-free gravitas? Weird. Really weird.

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Verdict
Ambitious but incoherent new musical that falls far short of the Orwellian allegory it aims at
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