Sheffield Crucible Theatre's new online show is funny, moving and inspiring - here's how to watch The Band Plays On

It is always exciting to see new work on stage at the Crucible Theatre, even if I’m watching it at home on my computer screen in my spare bedroom/working from home office.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 7:00 am
The cast of The Band Plays On - from left, Jodie Prenger, Jocasta Almgill, Anna Jane Casey, Sandra Marvin, Maimuna Memon
The cast of The Band Plays On - from left, Jodie Prenger, Jocasta Almgill, Anna Jane Casey, Sandra Marvin, Maimuna Memon

The pandemic has, of course, halted live theatre and Sheffield Theatres, after several false starts for new seasons which saw only one show actually get on stage during that time, decided to go online with The Band Plays On.

The Band Plays On was written by Sheffield-born writer Chris Bush as a lockdown love letter to the history and resilience of her home city.

The writer of Richard Hawley-inspired musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge explores even more of the city's music, stretching from Sixties star Dave Berry to Def Leppard, the Arctic Monkeys, Jarvis Cocker, Moloko and Slow Club.

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A fantastic cast of five actresses sing the songs with a live band between monologues that are funny, touching, moving and inspiring.

They are separated by screens and the utilitarian-looking set includes a piece of Kid Acne graffiti.

Anna-Jane Casey appears at the Crucible for a seventh time after leading the 2016 Christmas production Annie Get Your Gun.

Maimuna Memon starred in Standing at the Sky’s Edge and Sandra Marvin follows on from her role in Showboat at the Crucible and the show’s West End transfer.

Sandra Marvin in The Band Plays On

Both Jocasta Almgill (West Side Story, Dreamgirls) and Lyceum Shirley Valentine star Jodie Prenger make their Crucible debuts.

Lots of the stories feature relationships between dads and daughters, including Anna Jane’s, where her dad’s 1984 attempts to build a nuclear shelter on an allotment references both the nuclear holocaust TV drama Threads, set in the city, and the real devastation of steel and coal industries. It’s also very funny.

Maimuna, who starts the show with a brilliant version of I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor, celebrates city Olympic star Jessica Ennis-Hill and her dad’s sporting enthusiasm.

He pulls her into playing football and she is amazed to find that the city is the home of the beautiful game. She takes the audience under the stage, speaking on the move down a corridor, something only an online show could do.

The darkest point in our football history is explored very movingly by Sandra. Her piece sensitively links the 1864 Great Sheffield Flood, which killed 240 people when a dam burst, and the 96 deaths of the Hillsborough Disaster.

Jocasta recalls political disasters for a Labour activist family, starting with the 1992 general election and the misjudged Neil Kinnock Sheffield Arena US-style rally where he arrived by helicopter, through to her fears of a family split when her left-wing mum votes for Brexit in 2016.

Her message and that of Jodie in the closing piece is that we endure. Jodie is both funny and touching in a story of how her world falls apart during the first lockdown but friendship and music help her to keep going.

It was so touching at the end to see the performers bowing to a silent auditorium. I was cheering even though they couldn't hear me.

Treat yourself and watch the show on demand by going to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk until March 28.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor