Rock Around The Clock
Gig theatre is one of those things, like extortionate rent, middle class cocaine use and electric scooters that has originated in London but ended up infecting the rest of the UK. Gig theatre, and you won't believe this, is an experience that feels like a combination of going to a gig and going to the theatre(!). Generally set around some hip music scene, we see some young people go about their day-to-day lives before launching into era-appropriate songs that both serve as world-building and generally manage to perfectly fit into how the characters are currently feeling. It's like High School Musical for people who drink Red Stripe.
RIBS takes this concept and runs with it – telling the story of how young people in the USSR smuggled in jazz, swing and rock'n'roll records through vinyl that they'd made out of X-Rays (very cool.) It is, actually, a brilliant encapsulation of what gig theatre is about and can be and provides something genuinely new and fresh feeling to the Cambridge theatre scene. The sheer spectacle of it is brilliant, with the excellent live band led by Finlay Stafford sitting directly above the heads of the cast. They launch into rollicking jazzy versions of 'Good Vibrations,' 'Help!' and an honestly ace version of 'A Little Less Conversation' – possibly providing one of the first ever examples of a ukulele actually improving a song.
You should go.
There are small niggles, like the annoying habit of how every conversation towards the end veers off into some Very Important Argument for no apparent reason – making it feel a bit like Soviet Hollyoaks. The play also doesn't feel massively grounded in space and time and you could be forgiven for thinking that the characters were in Worcestershire, or Arkansas or any other small-town at the end of the world – instead of in Stalin's Russia. In some ways this is refreshing and helps put forward the central message of a universal youth culture and humanity – but also makes the ending feel a bit odd and maybe lacking the punch it could have had.
At the end of the day, you walk out of RIBS into the cool night, whistling 'Good Vibrations' to yourself. What more could you want? This is a fresh and exciting addition to the Cambridge theatre scene, one I hope is replicated and built on in the future.