On the 30th of January, I went to see the play Mojo and it was a brilliant performance. I had already seen the play in December but I wanted to watch it again to catch any dialogue I had missed the first time round. I was completely absorbed in the storyline and mesmerised by the characters on stage and even after the play had ended I still felt shocked as if I had grabbed onto a live wire. The play was set in the late 50’s and the aggression, the electric rock ‘n’ roll vibe was evident from Silver Johnny [Tom Rhys Harries] in the very first scene, his feverish almost manic dancing showcased the wildness and thrill of rock music which was sparking a riot across the world. As the heavy bass pounded and the electric guitar hissed through the speakers in the dark, it was as if a match was struck and the audience came alive.
The play centred around the fact that Silver Johnny, after a night at the club was kidnapped by local gangster Sam Ross and that the owner of the club – Baby‘s father, Ezra had been murdered in the process. Silver Johnny – the moniker given to him because of his silver jacket and trousers is the club’s hottest new thing and destined to make a break in the state hence the reason why Sam Ross is interested in the young man, to make money. The play is about how the club staff Potts [ Daniel Mays], Sweets [ Rupert Grint], Skinny [Colin Morgan], Baby [Ben Whishaw] and Mickey [Brendan Coyle] come to terms with Ezra’s sudden death and prepare for what is their last night armed with an ancient cutlass and an old Derringer.
Mojo is a dark play, the characters are very twisted, Baby appears to be mentally unbalanced ranging from loud aggressive outbursts to a docile childlike mentality. Skinny is mercilessly bullied by Baby yet seems to emulate him in his clothing, and looks up to the only authoritative figure he has, Mickey. The use of drugs, the violence, the sexual tension between Skinny and Baby pretty much sum up what 1950-60’s Soho was like, the ferocity and the wildness of the time is perfectly shown in Mojo which was written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Ian Rickson. Jez Butterworth and Ian Rickson also worked together in the original Mojo production back in 1995, subsequently a film written and directed by the duo was released in 1997. The reboot of Mojo stars a brilliant cast: Brendan Coyle, Tom Rhys Harries, Colin Morgan, Ben Whishaw, Daniel Mays and Rupert Grint.
Despite the violence and seedy nature of the play, it is shockingly funny from the delirious rapport between Potts and Sweets who are hyped up on pills which appear to ‘turn urine black, it’s the white ones’ and make hilarious jokes about the prowess of Silver Johnny who seems to make young ladies “lose themselves”. The fast paced play is packed full of funny moments, usually arising from arguments about trivial things such as Toffee apples, Skinny’s Uncle Tommy and of course any scene with Potts and Sweets is hilarious. The humour is much appreciated to lift the darkness of the play and works well to disguise the fact that something isn’t right in the club.
The acting was outstanding and it was a delight to watch such talented people lose themselves in their characters.
- Ben Whishaw showed the psychotic nature of Baby with the arrogance and vulnerability of a man who was struggling to hide his grief for his father who abused both physically and mentally. The swift mood changes and the sudden bursts into song and dance, that electric,almost frightening dance by Baby in the first Act was so unexpected and shocking.
- Colin Morgan showed how Skinny couldn’t help but admire Baby through imitating his sense of fashion, by trying to confront Baby and gain his respect. The relationship between Mickey and Skinny was that of a Father and Son, or Boss and employee, they had a bond and Skinny sought out protection from Mickey which aggravated the others. Skinny ended up becoming the poor victim because of his love for Mickey and his never faltering belief that Mickey was a good person.
- Rupert Grint was excellent in his first theatre debut and was unrecognisable as Sweets, he successfully balanced humour with Sweets ever mounting terror about the events that transpired. Tom Rhys Harries and Lawrence Robb who played Silver Johnny respectively both times I went to see the play, were amazing in setting the scene with that iconic feverish dance in Scene 1 and remained in character perfectly for Act Two which must have required a lot of stamina and willpower.
- Daniel Mays, a talented actor was key in providing the much-needed humour in the play as Potts who seemed to be a bit of a troublemaker, and increased the animosity between Skinny and Baby. Of Course, Brendan Coyle was exceptional as Mickey whose sheer presence had the ability to instil fear into the audience and steer the play back into the darkness.
I would definitely recommend this play as it is very interesting to watch and Soho in the 50’s was beautifully captured in this production. There is a lot of swearing and violence in the play, which you should be prepared to see . The cast was so brilliant and captivating in this production, that any previous work they have starred in, will be completely blown out of the water.