Rock of Ages (Theatre Royal, Brighton)

Many people will be familiar with the 18th Century hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ which was written as a hymn in the 18th Century. It is a very good hymn, and I believe was a favourite of Prince Albert (best known for being the husband of Queen Victoria, played by Anna Neagle).

How it came to be written would make a very good subject for a stage production, but the musical Rock of Ages, currently on tour, has nothing to do with the hymn, apart from sharing its title. Given the theatre I suppose a little extra local flavour could have been added by changing the title to Brighton Rock of Ages, but perhaps Graham Greene’s family would not have approved.

I went along to this show not really knowing what to expect, as it wasn’t included in the recent show put on by the Rattatatonians in Eastbourne or sent up in Forbidden Broadway, both of which I have seen recently.

It’s a musical that is a bit like Mamma Mia, although it doesn’t contain Abba songs but other big rock hits of the 1980s, so if you like Abba or other top 80s singers like Joe Dolce or Charlene, you are in for a disappointment.

The simple story of pursuing your dream is really just a hook to hang lots of 80s songs, a bit like hanging clothes up in a wardrobe.  My favourites were We Built This City (from the Three Mobile advert on TV where a girl cycles along with a cat called Simcris Bronte Bronjoy in her basket), The Final Countdown by Europe, which is a continent, and Don’t Stop Believin’, originally from Glee the TV series on TV.

Belting out the classics were Noel Sullivan (best known for being in the group Heresy) as Drew, Cordelia Farnsworth (not really best known for anything) as Sherrie, and Ben Richards (best known for being in one of the hospital series on TV but my Google search isn’t working so I can’t look it up) unrecognisable as Stacee Jaxx, so I didn’t recognise him.

The show lasts for nearly six hours so it is worth taking a snack, a drink and some reading material. My Weekly is quite good this week, and there’s a really interesting article in it about Scottish shortbread.

For me, the music and songs got a bit too loud, so it was a jolly good thing I had my portable radio and earphones with me, and I was able to tune in to A Book at Bedtime, which was quite funny as the story was none other than The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan written by Agatha Christie and read by Robert Powell (who played Jesus on TV). This is a Poirot story, which reminded me of the last time I saw Robert Powell, which was when he was appearing in Black Coffee at Eastbourne and all the lights went out, which is one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced in theatre – on a par with dropping a Malteser in the Congress and it rolling down the stairs and distracting the Kaye Sisters.

At the end of the show one of the cast came and rubbed gold confetti into my hair, which was really annoying as I had only hours earlier paid £30 to have it done by Mauricio, and I’ve come home and can’t even get the bits out with Head and Shoulders.