Review: Be My Baby
Be My Baby @ ADC. ROB SMITH enjoyed a solid if unremarkable offering from the ADC that was most definitely not vomit inducing.
Be My Baby, ADC Theatre, 20th-23rd January.
The Ronettes are one of my guilty pleasures. As a heterosexual male I pretend I only like ‘Be My Baby’ as it’s the opening song of Mean Streets, but in reality there’s something about Ronnie Spector’s voice that has a direct line into my soul. Going to see ‘Be My Baby’ last night at the ADC meant I was confident that I’d enjoy the music if nothing else. Thankfully it was also solidly acted and genuinely tugged at my emotions in all the right places.
Set in the mid-sixties, 'Be My Baby’ deals with unmarried and pregnant teenagers placed into a care home for the duration of their pregnancy, living with the knowledge that their babies will inevitably be given up for adoption. It’s the kind of play that GCSE drama teachers love and therefore the kind of play that sets off alarm bells in my head. After an initial ten minutes of uncertainty, however, I soon let out a sigh of relief as it became clear how competent the actors were. Jo Starte’s Mary was particularly good. Despite my reservations at first, her nuanced performance really came into its own by the end, successfully overcoming my usual aversion to posh little girls. Also worthy of mention was Cait Crosse’s Queenie, pulling off one of the better northern accents I've heard at the ADC and managing to make the most out of what was a fairly clichéd bad-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold character. A troupe of Abercrombie clad posh cunts sitting next to me couldn’t help but laugh like deranged privately educated hyenas whenever she opened her mouth which was rather unfortunate, but I can’t really hold that against her.
Photos: Tim Johns – www.timjohns.co.uk
The play on the whole looked pretty good. I particularly liked the colour co-ordinated headbands and shoes, the only distinguishing feature of each girl that suggested there was some hope of retaining your identity in such a dreadful institution. Everything was perhaps a little bare, and this was probably more due to the rushed circumstances of the play's production rather than any artistic reason, but this really wasn’t my main problem. What really annoyed me was that the Matron’s office was elevated within in a medieval style watch tower. Not only was this was incongruous given the otherwise sparse and naturalistic set but it also didn’t make much sense. Sure the Matron was the strict authority figure, but she was no Nurse Ratched and even showed a softer side on many occasions, for example when praising Queenie for coping well under pressure. Why they situated her in Sauron’s tower is therefore beyond me, but I imagine it fell to the director feeling that they had to put a stylistic stamp on what is pretty well trodden theatrical territory no matter what the cost.
Despite its short comings and derivative script, I found it hard not to enjoy ‘Be My Baby’. The acting really came together by the end, leaving me to wonder what might have been with a little more rehearsal time. It was particularly strong when dealing with the escapist power of music, with Queenie’s admission that she wishes she could ask Ronnie Spector to ‘Take me with you’ particularly resonant. I left the theatre feeling pleasantly surprised, a feeling made better on seeing my friends were all in the ADC bar. This feeling was undone when one of them promptly threw up all over himself. I’d like to turn this into a metaphor for this week’s late show but that would be deeply unfair. It was an undeniably solid, if unremarkable, hour of theatre that was very far away from being vomit inducing.