Rock Follies | Minerva Theatre, Chichester | Review

Rock Follies

Minerva Theatre, Chichester

August 2023

During the 1970s, an era when the nation’s TV viewing was split between a mere three channels, a show spanning only 12 episodes over the period of two years became a television classic. Written by Howard Schuman, Rock Follies followed the tale of three female friends breaking into the music business in a misogynistic and bigoted Britain.

The girls ironically name their band ‘The Little Ladies’ and begin by wanting to change the world. They want to be anarchic, brave and totally different. On the route to success, a bit too predictably, compromises are made which threatens not only their future but their friendship as well.

Fifty years later the show has been adapted for the stage by Chloe Moss and is being debuted at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester under the direction of Dominic Cooke.

Carly Bawden, Zizi Strallen and Angela Marie Hurst taking the lead roles are feisty, harmonious and perform with unlimitless talent. Unlike the characters they portray, their chemistry works well. Zizi Strallen plays Q whose previous career as a soft porn star has been keeping her and her boyfriend afloat. She, as always, gives a compelling performance especially during the musical numbers. Carly Bawden is cast as Anna, the most complex character of the three. Anna is a Cambridge graduate forever chasing her dream before long needing substances to help do so. Her struggles and slow demise are the backbone of the show and Bawden carries it well with a sense realism and sensitivity.

However, it is Angela Marie Hurst who excels as Dee. Dee’s vocals in the story surpass her friends and unwillingly she is lined up as the frontman (woman) of the band, Hurst’s vocals are stunning and certainly worthy of the role as she raises the roof during the power ballads.

Vicki Mortimer’s staging is simple but effective and Kinnetia Isidore’s wardrobe is surprisingly stylish considering it is set in the 70s. The songs by Howard Schuman and Andy Mackay are pleasant but unmemorable which is a shame.

Overall, the main problem with the show that it is outdated. It is true that in the 70s Rock Follies was a groundbreaking TV drama, however 50 years later the message is hardly something new. Girl Power with all its female empowerment is a common theme in theatreland and shows based on true accounts such as Sunny Afternoon, Jersey Boys and even Tina the Musical document the rise to fame and its pitfalls. Do we really need a fictional account too?

It was an entertaining show, and the trio of actresses were sublime, however hardly momentus.


Reviewer: Sammi O’Neill