dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Growing up in 1970's Birmingham
The Rotters' Club takes us back to the 1970s in Birmingham where a group of teenage boys are discovering all that the world has to offer them – girls, university, music, friendship. It was a best-selling novel for Jonathan Coe and became a highly successful television series and now it's been adapted for the stage at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Teenage angst in The Rotters' Club
This production is also a showcase for the theatre's stage school the Young Rep whose actors take on the roles of the teenage boys and girls. Director Gwenda Hughes has brought out the best in the young people who are confident, assured and thoroughly at home in their roles.
Charlie Mills takes the lead role of Ben Trotter whose family is turned upside down when his sister Lois, played by Alice McGowan, is in one of the pubs targeted in the IRA bombing campaign in Birmingham. Suddenly the fun of being a teenager is shocked into a new sphere as Ben's family try to support Lois' trauma. Daniel Carter is Lois' boyfriend Malcolm who not only adores his childhood sweetheart but also takes time to befriend her younger brother.
Adapted for the stage by Richard Cameron, the production loses its way a little towards the end as the youngsters' experiences pile up against a busy backdrop of industrial disputes, terror attacks, infidelity, racism, child abuse and bullying. It's a lot to pack into two-and-a-half hours.
There's plenty of humour – much surrounding the young boys' total lack of knowledge of the female sex and their determination to find out more. But there is also plenty of sadness as families disintegrate and suffer.
Michael Holt's designs easily take us from the schoolroom into the various characters' homes while video designer Louis Price ensures a lively backdrop of images from the 1970s.
This is a lively production of an excellent book which will appeal to adults and young people – although possibly for slightly different reasons. While the youngsters will laugh in recognition at some of the schoolroom scrapes, the adults can't help but fondly remember their memories of a decade which brought us prog rock and punk.