rotters club head

Louis Sutherland (Steve Richards), Haris Myers (Sean Harding) and Andrew Morrin (Culpepper). Pictures: Robert Day

The Rotters’ Club

Birmingham Rep


NOVELIST Jonathan Coe hails from Bromsgrove and studied at Birmingham’s prestigious King Edwards School in Edgbaston in the 1970s.

His influence of this time and experience are reflected in his novel The Rotters’ Club, which portrays a group of school children in Birmingham and the teenage 1970’s experience.

Coe’s work was adapted for the stage by Richard Cameron and presented by the Young REP company in a fiery and witty take on growing up in a time of political uncertainty and cultural change.

This production is an interesting choice for a cast all under the age of eighteen; 1970’s Britain was far from when they were born and one would like to think that we have developed as a country over the past forty years.

There may be thoughts that given the youthful age of these actors, there may be a barrier preventing us feeling the atmosphere of Birmingham of that time, but this cannot be further than the truth.

Every actor on stage at any given moment presented themselves with a maturity and commitment to the time and era. This production oozed knowledge and it was clear to see that everyone took the time to research and fully understand the cultural paradigm shift within their performances. The actors might not have been there through it all, but their empathy and understanding of the time was a breath of fresh air.

The story was predominately set in the fictional King William’s School in BirminghMalcolm and Loisam. We follow the lives of young teenagers throughout their journey of five years of school and their ambitions for the future ahead.

Amidst a backdrop of cultural unrest, the cast, directed by Gwenda Hughes, set a tone that highlighted the typical and mischievous school time antics. With teenage angst of relationships, friendships and of course, trying to pass exams, the show was hilariously funny, thanks to the cheeky playfulness of everyone involved on stage.

Ill fated romance: Daniel Carter  as Malcolm and Alice McGowan Lois Trotter

What better concept than to have teenager’s play characters of their own age. The cast’s on stage rapport was second to none and this highlighted the production’s hilarious sequences, with boys playing tricks on teachers or with the script’s comic one-liners.

One actor particularly stood out with this. Haris Myers was certainly a comic genius. In his portrayal of Sean Harding, we were always guaranteed a laugh. He embodied cheeky Harding perfectly and also got applause when reading out comments and complaints to the Sixth Form’s newspaper committee.

There was a deep sense of maturity and perception when the darker moments of the story were portrayed. In a heart stopping moment just before the interval, the audience were reminded of the Birmingham Pub Bombings in 1974. Malcolm, played by the hairy Daniel Carter had ambitions of proposing to his girlfriend Lois Trotter, who was given emotional brevity by the outstanding Alice McGowan.

This was not meant to be as Lois escaped The Tavern in the Town and Malcolm did not. The set design of Michael Holt aided this memory in a tasteful and poignant way, when after the sound of the bomb, dust fell down from the ceiling and took us to a blackout.

Racism and political differences were not shied away from either and the cast presented the matters head-on. This showed the audience how committed they were to the project; no subject was too hard for them to handle which certainly is commendable.

In an era of political differences and social unrest, it must be difficult for any cast to not only portray, but to understand the essence of what a community felt and the situations they had to face. In this production, The Young REP went above and beyond any expectation.

In a time where none of the cast had any experience within, we were shown a piece that reminded those who were around just how tough the struggle was for everyone and gave a wonderful and heartfelt social and political education to those who were not there. To 09-04-16

Elizabeth Halpin


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