Stage Review of The Rotters’ Club at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, UK

 Charlie Mills (Ben Trotter) and Yusuf Niazi (Phil Chase)

Charlie Mills (Ben Trotter) and Yusuf Niazi (Phil Chase)

Adapted for stage by Richard Cameron and directed by Gwenda Hughes, the play ‘The Rotters’ Club’ premiered in The House at Birmingham Repertory Theatre this week on 02 April

The play is inspired by the wide reaching 2001 novel The Rotters’ Club  by Jonathan Coe. To tell the tale Coe used his own pupil experiences while enrolled at King William’s school in Edgbaston in the 1970s, but the main story line developments turned its head away from being autobiographical to a work of fiction, though the backdrop mentions, in regard to industrial unrest; terrorist attacks and racial tensions in Birmingham, was really happening

I’ve not read the book, but what is glaringly obvious is that Coe’s original piece of work is so, so, smart, therefore I must assume that this play parallel tracks all that good stuff because this show is ace!

Charlie Mills (Ben Trotter), Yusuf Niazi (Phil Chase) and Anna Bradley (Claire Newman)

On the surface it’s a nod to classroom giggles and niggles. Ben Trotter and his three friends are nearing the end of years spent in their institutional surroundings, so they’ve forged their friendships, identified their enemies and fuelled their passions. Their adolescent years almost behind them now, they have experienced insecurities, unrequited love; band obsessions, and first loves. On the outside of school, Ben has lived long enough to witness the tragic suffering of people close to him, yet remains genial and optimistic for the future

The cast consists of young performers from The Rep’s youth theatres many of whom have ‘tread the boards’ at The REP before, playing small parts, but now these young people are starring and this show really highlights expert drama teaching and the exciting acting talent of five individuals particularly

This new to stage setting includes various theatrical devices deployed to get the depth and many layers of the story out, for example the direct narration and video projection – when characters’ experience flashbacks and memory recollections and the narrative makes a skip back it does not compromise the play’s structure and its chronological continuing

Daniel Carter (Malcolm) And Alice McGowan (Lois Trotter)
Daniel Carter (Malcolm) And Alice McGowan (Lois Trotter)

The whole story promotes critical thinking re: left and right wing politics, relationships; social standings, religion, communities, etc. Many issues featured are still hugely prevalent today. This play is totally relevant and it captures the essence and the very fabric of a time gone (falling within living memory) much better than others I could name

The success of bringing the ‘The Rotters’ Club to stage is already being realised


CAST Members include:

ANNA BRADLEY Claire Newman
HARIS MYERS Sean Harding
ALICE McGOWAN Lois Trotter

Photography by Robert Day

Theatre critic Debra Hall attended press night in an official capacity to review The Rotters’ Club at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tuesday 05 April



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