STAGE REVIEW: WE ARE THE BEST! @ Live Theatre, Newcastle (31.05.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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What do you do if you’re a teenage girl, you’re scared about the state of the world, you come from a broken home and you can’t meet boys? You form a band, of course! But what if you can’t play a musical instrument? You make it a punk band!

The rebellious Klara and the androgynous Bobo are best friends but they need a third. Hedwig has a great voice but her sensible clothes and Christian upbringing makes her a target for the bullies at the school talent contest. Klara and Bobo decided to take her under her wing and so To The Alps are born.

Inspired by the cult Swedish graphic novel Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson, which in turn inspired the 2013 movie We Are The Best – adapted by Coco’s husband, Lukas – this stage version loses none of the attitude, fun or emotional punch of its predecessors.

Adapted for the stage by Rebecca Glendenning and directed by Jack McNamara, we find ourselves in Stockholm circa 1982 at a skate park. Punk appears to be past its prime, the new romantics are starting to take over and synths are all the rage. To The Alps have something to say, they just don’t know what it is yet. Although they’re pretty sure that “Sports are shit!” What they are starting to realise, is that they are stronger when they are together and don’t let things like parents, mansplaining youth leaders, boys and sexist Santa’s tear them apart.

The local precocious talent in this production on display is astounding. Elena Porter’s reserved and sheltered Hedwig captures perfectly the teenager at odds with their strict upbringing. Bridget Marumo’s Klara is full of attitude yet equally vulnerable and Bethany Morris nails that awkward “who even am I?” stage as our moral compass protagonist, Bobo. Plenty of credit also goes to the supporting cast, with Anna Bolton as Bobo’s divorced mother getting the oldies sympathy on board, Stacey Ghent’s Christian mother is played for laughs and Beruce Khan’s youth leader is all the right levels of cringe.

Glendenning and McNamara have retained the setting and captured the era perfectly whilst also managing to throw in digs at Thatcher to give it an extra level of relatability. But whether you’ve been in a band or not, we’ve all been teenagers and We Are The Best! will undoubtedly transport you back to that magical time which felt so difficult but for most of us probably seems like the wonder years now!  

We Are The Best! is at Live Theatre, Newcastle until Saturday 18th June.

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