Review: Soul at Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Nathan Ives-Moiba
Nathan Ives-Moiba
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If someone tells you about a show all about the life of Marvin Gaye, you might expect some sort of tribute show in a jukebox musical.

But in Soul, the story of the musician’s life, avoids this and not only looks back at his life but also the circumstances which led to him being shot by his father.

The show is all the stronger for avoiding some of Gaye’s most loved tracks and concentrating on the family circumstances and the show is far more dramatic and entertaining as a result.

Indeed the action is nicely bought down to just over two hours, but they leave you gripped. You can normally tell how gripped you are by a show by how often you looked at your watch, and at no point during the show did I look at my watch.

The actors deserve the most praise for playing it with the pace and giving it the intensity that is throughout a deep and well written script by Roy Williams.

Keenan Munn-Francis as the young Marvin is absolutely outstanding. It is such a well judged performance, from nervous and humble origins to the acclaimed confident musician you sensed he would become. For someone so young, it was an incredible performance that I suspect we shall hear from him in far more high priority roles in future.

When we see Marvin as an adult, Nathan Ives-Moiba is playing the part and is full of rock star charisma and is on the stage more or less the entire time. He has plenty of the star’s charisma but also playing some of the drug-induced scenes and paranoia expertly.

I suspect that many people will be fascinated by the relationship that Marvin has with his father Marvin senior. Leo Wringer takes a part that in the wrong hands could be easily two dimensional, and yet makes him a realistic man. A proud man but one who can’t help but have the flamboyant touches that would make his son famous.

The whole cast are fantastic and the ably supported by the Royal & Derngate Community Choir who overcome some initial nerves to shine and play an important part in telling the show.

Like a classical painting, critics will probably get different things out of it.

Nathan Ives-Moiba

Nathan Ives-Moiba

Some will see it as the break down of a close family unit, about the emasculation of an older generation, a lack of communication between a father and a son or a duo who fail to realise how similar they are to each other. I’m sure some audience members will look back at the good times and the bad times of their own upbrining.

One thing is for certain, Soul might well be a contender for the best shows ever produced under the Made in Northampton umbrella and considering the quality of the shows, that is not an accolade to be handed down lightly.

Soul can be seen at Royal & Derngate in Northampton until Saturday June 11. For tickets call the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.

Keenan Munn-Francis, Adjoa Andoh and Leo Wringer in Soul

Keenan Munn-Francis, Adjoa Andoh and Leo Wringer in Soul