The Who’s Tommy first hit the big screen in the 70s following the concept album from 1969 with music and lyrics by Pete Townsend.
Successfully transferred to the stage in the late 70s – this rock opera is still going strong delighting audiences across the country despite the original story never really making sense. I remember watching the film as a teen many years after its release and back then it just gave me an insight into the psychedelic 60s.
This new co-production with Ramps on the Moon directed by Kerry Michael showcases the talents of both disabled and non-disabled actors and creates a whole new depth of discovery into how different life was back then, how far society has come and how we still have a way to go…
At an early age Tommy is traumatised after witnessing his stepfather Frank murder Captain Walker – (his missing in action father) upon his return from the war. Nora, Tommy’s mum begs him to keep quiet sending Tommy into his deaf, dumb and blind state.
William Grint portrays Tommy throughout from a young boy to a man and does so superbly well capturing the right emotions for each age. Tommy is also voiced by Julian Capolei and Matthew Jacobs-Morgan.
Max Runham plays a haunting Captain Walker binding the scenes together with beautiful renditions of “See Me, Feel Me.”
As the years go by we see Nora’s battle of leaving her child with sitters whilst she goes out with Frank and their desperate attempts to cure Tommy. We witness many Drs visits and countless tests as well as con artists offering miracle cures in return for a few quid – most notably the scene of The Acid Queen played by Peter Straker who could sure belt out a tune.
We saw the abuse that Tommy suffered at the hands of Uncle Ernie (Garry Robson) – “Fiddle About” was just dark and uncomfortable enough to provide the realisation of what happened back then to those that couldn’t or wouldn’t speak out.
Donna Mullings was compelling as Nora and worked in unison with Shekinah McFarlane (voice of Nora.) Alim Jayda (Frank) and Donna’s chemistry was beautiful.
Whilst also suffering bullish behaviour from Cousin Kevin (Lukus Alexander,) Tommy finds himself the laughing stock of the youth cub until he stumbles across the Pinball Machine and earning him the crown as Pinball Wizard.
The second half is the part of the film that goes a bit weird but was actually adapted very well in this production even making Tommy’s Messiah status make sense. Amy Trigg as Tommy’s faithful follower Sally Simpson was mesmerising.
The lyrical combination of dance and signing throughout makes it accessible to all and gives this production an extra dimension that is thought provoking and awe-inspiring.
You could tell The Who fans in the audience as they tapped along to the great hits including “Sensation” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Those who had never seen it understood it (probably more than the film!) and everyone left singing “listening to you, I get the music” (and I am still singing it now.)
The Who’s Tommy, Nottingham Playhouse until 29th April – one not to miss!