Theatre Review: Do I Love You? @ The New Vic

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Credt: Ian Hodgson
Credt: Ian Hodgson

As well as being one of the UK’s most popular playwrights, John Godber has been a massive fan of Northern Soul since its inception and is a very keen supporter of the revival scene.

With the iconic Wigan Casino celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, it is fitting that Godber should turn his observational talents to the subject and write his own love letter to a musical genre that continues to give huge pleasure to its devotees.

Audiences at the New Vic have been able to take advantage of the latest output from Godber’s talented and witty mind with the appearance of Do I Love You on the latest leg of the tour. And the people of North Staffordshire have responded by flocking to spend a night of nostalgia with a talented cast allowing the audience to wallow in the unmistakable sound of Soul.

Kyle (Emiliano Enciso-Gil), Sally (Martha Godber) and Natalie (Chloe McDonald) are a band of twenty-somethings whose lives and ambitions have been ruined by the Covid lockdown and find themselves in a less-than-inspiring working environment at a local fast-food chicken outlet (Do you want fries with that? and Pass to the next window become recurring catchphrases)

Even worse, the trio are unable to find an escape from their humdrum lives. The pandemic has devastated the club scene and weekends have become as boring as the working days.

That is until Kyle persuades his mates to go to a locally-advertised all-nighter. Admission is only £3 a head so there is little to lose. Shocked to find that everyone else at the venue is of pensionable age and that the smell of asthma spray is more prevalent than that of booze, the young friends soon become hooked by the scene as the aging romeos strut their stuff like peacocks with an energy driven by blueys (ask an older relative!!).

And so begins the journey to the iconic Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Will their dancing be good enough to not make a fool of themselves? Sally knows that being just OK will not cut the mustard after an encounter with Keith (Enciso-Gil) who explained the working-class roots of the scene and the reality of the music that saw its fans live for the weekend. The 68-year old so-called King of Northern Soul provided the encouragement for Sal to succeed.

Northern Soul plays a huge part in the drama but there is much else to admire as the script examines how people develop their relationships. The friends have big decisions to make after an indiscretion threatens to tear them apart and there is a beautiful relationship between Sal and her Nan (McDonald).

Nan has had a terrible life with just one glimmering period to lighten the darkness. A magical but doomed relationship with an American air force officer named Marvin gave her hope of a future as they danced away their time together but she was eventually left with nothing but memories and many boxes of obscure vinyl. These discs were to prove an inspiration to her grand-daughter.

With choreography by Champion Northern Soul Dancer the movement is spot on throughout and the music and dancing are neatly used to link the scenes together.

The three cast members put on a tremendous show – they surely must be great friends in real life they were so convincing – and they were embraced by the love of an engrossed audience who were quick to cheer mentions of the Torch and Kings Hall while throwing in the occasional asides to the actors.

The standing ovation at the final curtain said it all. This was an evening of pure entertainment that provided much laughter and a few tears as the play proved that Northern Soul will always inspire Faith and people to Keep It.

Like many others in the audience my first act on returning home was to ask Alexa to play some Northern Soul to keep the vibe going. I wanted to do an all-nighter but where are the blueys when you need them!!!

The production continues until February 3rd with a running time of 1 hour 50 minutes including interval. For ticket information contact 01782 717962.