Pop Music review – life throws shapes on the dancefloor

Cast, Doncaster
Anna Jordan tunes into intertwined lives and captures the oblivion and camaraderie of the dancefloor in her new drama

It’s no spoiler to reveal that Pop Music ends with Come on Eileen. How could a show about a thousand nights on the dancefloor do otherwise? The final song is as inevitable as the guests at a wedding reception getting on their feet to the rousing chords of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and as the unmarried women showing their ringless fingers at the first sound of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies. It’s just what happens.

There’s another way the Dexys Midnight Runners hit is a perfect match for Anna Jordan’s two-hander. With its lines about Johnny Ray moving hearts in mono, Come on Eileen is a song about pop music as much as it is about romance. Elsewhere on the Too-Rye-Ay album, Kevin Rowland writes songs about writing songs (witness Let’s Make This Precious), about capturing the perfect musical moment, about, as he sang, “trying to get the feeling that I had in 1972”.

Similarly, Jordan’s play – ostensibly a romp through three decades of floor-fillers as two former school adversaries catch up on their years apart – is a contemplation of the place pop music has in our lives. Does it offer inspiration or fill a void? Does it give us the aspirational values of the Spice Girls or the hedonistic vacancy of some club anthem? Does it encapsulate those formative turning points or simply offer an escape route? Could it be all of the above?

With her high-density rhymes in James Grieve’s taut production for Paines Plough and Birmingham Rep, Jordan goes a long way to capturing the oblivion and the ecstasy, the lust and the camaraderie of the dancefloor. As she takes us from boy bands to girl power, Britpop to acid house, the mood of the music reflects the changing circumstances of her thirtysomething dancers.

Ranging from the sour to the carefree, Katherine Kotz and Vedi Roy understand the pull between being one of the crowd and feeling as though they’re special. Mass-market entertainment soundtracks what they thought were unique lives. For all their individuality, there’s not a dance routine they don’t know. Funny and true, this is a crowd-pleasing play with troubling depths.

Contributor

Mark Fisher

The GuardianTramp

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