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Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others - The Lowry

Since their demise in the mid-eighties, The Smiths have risen to the status of one of the most important, iconic bands of a generation...

Published on November 3rd 2005.

Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others - The Lowry

Since their demise in the mid-eighties, The Smiths have risen to the status of one of the most important, iconic bands of a generation, something that has proved a slow delight to those whose teenage lives were changed irrevocably and for the better by the boys from Manchester, myself gladly included.

So tonight’s show – based on the songs of the group – in a way could not fail, as it would take a large degree of ineptitude to mess up with such quality material to play with.

Morrissey culled his lyrics from all kinds of places, not least the grimly realistic sixties theatre of Salford-born Shelagh Delaney, so it is nice to see his lyrics performed from the stage, and a stone’s throw from where it all happened.

The set – a domestic scene with a table, lounge area, dressing mirrors and so on – belies the fantastical nature of the performance. With little narrative, a large video screen showing art installation-style loops behind the actors, and a dark plot driven by modern dance as much as anything else, this is not your usual play.

Indeed, it is a tribute to the half dozen or so actors involved that they can pull off such a show, which would at best be messy and at worst laughable in the hands of lesser talents. As the troupe act out highly choreographed synchronised scenes (someone is shot, everyone falls down, someone shouts, everyone wilts, that kind of stuff), they switch fluidly from background to foreground, song to silence, even from life to death and back again!

Krysten Cummings, especially, brings real emotion to some of the more pleading vocals, and (being black) also adds humour to the line “I wear black on the outside, because black is how I feel on the inside”! (from ‘Unloveable’)

The overblown pantomime theatrics and big booming Tom Jones voice of Sean Kingsley also help to carry the difficult material in many places.

The set doesn’t change, the actors are all pretty much on the stage from start to end, just slinking off to adjust their clothing or hair (in sight of us) when not central to proceedings.

And of course, the songs. Those songs. Backed by a string quartet, the real joy of this performance is the interpretations of some of the greatest pop tunes ever written. Majoring on the more melancholy, sometimes less obvious tracks (suited me fine), I was reminded again and again how lucky I was to have been touched by a band like this in my lifetime.

Although the added melodrama of the actors belting out songs which originally had more room to breathe didn’t suit all the material, it was a joy to hear most of these interpretations. Particularly fine were the instrumental ‘Oscillate Wildly’ - which here gains a poem as its lyric - and the occasional medleys where four or five songs were successfully juxtaposed over each other.

To non-Smiths fans (Are there any? Even my Mum ended up with ‘The Queen is Dead’ in her car CD changer eventually) this show might confuse rather than delight, but if it makes them go off and discover what they’ve been missing for the past 20 years, all to the good. These songs will continue to catch up with the uninitiated as time marches on anyway. That’s genius for you.

And for the rest of us, suffice to say that the quality of the ideas, the actors, the musicianship and the choreography do not let the songs down. This show is great. See it if you can.

Author: Phil Morse

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