Review | Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads, Minerva Theatre, Chichester: 'Unsettlingly satisfying... a must-see'

I have often waxed lyrical about the joy of having the Chichester Festival Theatre on our doorstep.

By James George
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 11:11 am

Only a week ago I sat in the main house and wallowed in the joy that is their Summer musical – Crazy For You.

Tonight, I have seen – perhaps ‘experienced’ is a better word – Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads in the Minerva.

Jolly title, isn’t it? Don’t be fooled. Sing is, essentially, a study of racism at the end of the twentieth century. It is a horrible piece of theatre, a sickening piece of theatre, a terrifying piece of theatre and possibly – probably – one of the best things I’ve ever sat in a theatre to watch.

Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads at Minerva Theatre, Chichester. Samuel Armfield, Makir Ahmed and Rob Compton. Photo by Helen Murray

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Author Roy Williams sets his play in a London pub preparing to host locals while they watch the England-Germany FIFA World Cup match in October 2000. The pub is peopled by what sounds like the cast of a Shakespeare play; two sets of brothers, one white, one black; a pub landlady, ex-lover of both one of the white brothers and one of the black brothers; a darkly sinister and manipulative older man; a supporting-cast of comics and killers.

In the company there is not one weak link but, inevitably, some performances stand out.

Sian Reese-Williams as publican Gina gives detailed, shaded and beautiful work. From the word go you like her. She appears non-racially-biased and has been the lover of black ex-soldier Mark, but when something happens that threatens her family she becomes a screaming, steaming hater. Reese-Williams is so completely real one can only stand back in awe at her work.

Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads at Minerva Theatre, Chichester. Michael Hodgson (Alan) and Richard Riddell (Lawire). Photo by Helen Murray

Mark Springer and Alexander Cobb as her two ex-lovers, who also happened to be best friends, play the various levels that relationship offers them as actors to the theatrical full but the most impressive, most disturbing performance comes from Michael Hodgson as master-racist, Alan.

Alan’s arguments to justify his racism make your stomach turn and Hodgson’s delivery of the Powell-esque vitriol is so very calm and reasoned and thoroughly, thoroughly evil. I felt – in the best possible way! – uncomfortable watching him.

Nicole Charles and Joanna Bowman’s direction is wonderful; the ensemble-work is sharp and well-choreographed and the whole evening unsettlingly satisfying.

Very highly recommended; a must-see.

Until August 13.