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Review: Girls Next Door/ Chester Gateway Theatre Studio.

Byline: Glyn Mon Hughes

THE music industry is big business in Britain. Dreams are made, egos are inflated, friends find each other and enemies gather in multitudes.

It generates success in small quantity, failure by the lorry load is comfortably competitive and painfully back-stabbing. And it's in decline. That was the essence of Jim Johnson's piece Girls Next Door, which appeared to be a none-too-disguised parody on the fortunes -- and failings -- of the Spice Girls. In some ways, the plot appeared a little obvious since the history of one of the most successful girl bands is well documented. But Johnson probed beneath the veneer of all-too-manufactured bands to look at real personalities. That was achieved, mostly, by video interjections of awkward schoolgirls or ambitious twenty-somethings all desperate for the tiniest ray of star shine to brighten up what appeared to be hum-drum lives. Johnson, a graduate of drama from Liverpool University and journalism from John Moores, proved himself a skilled writer and director. Not only that but he also wrote the music and lyrics for the two songs in the show.

It flowed well, generally, stalled just a little in places -- midway through the second act, for instance -- and contained a subtle balance of comedy and seriousness. The characters developed well. Strongest had to be Angel -- Kirsty Worthington -- the air head for whom ``image is all important''. She ``drives'' a Ferrari, had a string of celebrity boyfriends, the latest of whom was a TV chef. Clothes were her obsession and she'd met Stella -- along with ``a man who claimed to be her dad'' and who came from Speke. And in came the tired old joke on the wordplay of Speke and speak. And, talking of being an airhead, she did know that ``Elton John Lemon airport'' was in the same part of the world.

Aimee -- Katherine Lunney -- was the studious one, looking for the mystery chord, which turned out to be A minor, not ``D minor diminished once removed''. As if! Again, a strong performance if slightly halting at times.

Helmi Fagan played Jodie in what was, perhaps, the strongest role. She's the one lying about her age, desperate to be a size eight, allegedly anorexic and determined to be part of the young scene. In one serious moment, she talked about being too old for the music business at 24. Told you it was tough. Lit a -- Steph Brocken -- was the comic part with a hugely serious undertone. Abused, thrown out of her home, sleeping rough, she was a tragic figure. Least convincing was Tawny -- Grace Oldfield -- whose small stage part felt wooden. So, too, was John Perry who played Smug, the manager who tells the band they're history and then walks off into a cushy executive role. Good stuff, overall. Entertaining, thought provoking, and a triumph for Chester Gateway Young Actors.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 10, 2004
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