Tackling a comedy musical for the Hope Mill Theatre’s first show of 2018, it’s a huge steer in a different direction for the intimate fringe venue that has been churning out powerful, heart-warming productions that have touched the hearts of Manchester and beyond. Going for the fun, feel-good factor and based on Wendy Salisbury’s best-selling book, The Toyboy Diaries depicts the story of a middle-aged woman’s life who has decided to venture into dating younger men.
“I’ve done my procreation, now I want recreation,” Lily expresses to her neighbour and best friend Penny. Lily, played by Johanne Murdock has been divorced twice, had children and has found a new lease of life. It’s a production about female empowerment and grabbing life wihttp://sincerelyamy.com/wp-admin/edit.phpth both hands.
Johanne Murdock who hasn’t stepped foot into a musical for twenty years, The Toyboy Diaries is a rare production that shines a light on a female voice. With a huge lack of strong female roles in theatre, particularly older women, it’s great to see a story such as this being staged. Johanne Murdock gives a superbly sassy performance as Lily, she has confidence and charm in the role and provides a natural performance.
With the set designed as if we are quite literally sat inside Lily’s living room with her, the performance feels warm as the story takes us on the journey of Lily’s life, and more importantly her sexcapades. Lily talks to us as if we are her friends, confiding in the audiences about her choices along the way. Johanne portrays the role with a tenderness, allowing us to relate and emphasise with her. Murdock’s characterisation is genuine and her relationship with her best friend Penny, played by Nicola Blackman is incredibly funny and all women will find themselves having a giggle relating to their arguments and antics.
The three men in the production, Matt Beveridge, Sharif Afifi and Alistair Higgins all multi-role to play the different men in Lily’s life. Showcasing their excellent ability to instantly switch in-between characters, we meet a multitude of men from different backgrounds and ages. This provides a lot of humour as it amplifies the relatability of the show as I’m sure we’ve all dated at least one of these men in our lifetime.
Andy Collyer’s music elevates the narrative whilst bringing moments of emotion. His contemporary style hints at elements of traditional musical theatre, with storytelling at its core, enhanced by gloriously intricate harmonies. I found myself leaving the theatre with the catchy numbers bouncing around in my head. Director Tania Azevedo has captured the honesty of the dialogue with her courageous direction of the sharp tongue in cheek humour.
Not all theatre has to be the next revolution, theatre is entertainment and this production definitely entertained. The Toyboy Diaries is a fun, fresh and laugh-out-loud production with a female story at the forefront – it’s the perfect rom-com complimented by a dynamic soundtrack.
On at the Hope Mill Theatre until February 10th, tickets and information can be found here.