17 February 2010 by Published in: Theatre Tags:, , , , No comments yet

Amanda Hodges reviews Nick Moran’s production of the life and times of record producer, Joe Meek.

Today Nick Moran may be better known as an actor from a film like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but judging by this darkly comic profile of Sixties record producer Joe Meek- begun in leaner times with James Hicks- he’s also a playwright of considerable accomplishment.

“O’Neill is supported by a really first-rate cast amongst whom Linda Robson gives a bravura performance as his kind-hearted landlady Violet, quite literally caught in the crossfire of Meeks’ twilight world. Satirical, poignant and often blisteringly funny.”
Amanda Hodges

Meek was one of those characters who truly gives new meaning to the phrase ‘larger than life’. Running a record studio from his flat above a handbag shop on the Holloway road, he was responsible for several chart-topping singles, among them the eponymous Telstar recorded by the Tornados in 1963 which became a worldwide smash.

Hyperactive, fiendishly imaginative and profoundly interested in the occult, Meek was the first independent record producer, his small flat in North London witnessing a constant buzz of activity in the guise of RGM Productions until his untimely death in 1967.

Tim Shortall’s simple but effective set conjures this frenetic world perfectly, the stage divided into Meek’s office and recording studio where microphones jostle for space with the dustbin or prop open the adjacent toilet! Con O’Neill is simply superb as the self-destructive Meek, whose talent and musical ingenuity were sadly eventually overwhelmed by depression and paranoia.

Capturing both the man’s originality and his often tenuous grasp of reality, O’Neill gives a painfully captivating portrait of a man of immense ability who combined both rare flair and a complete lack of business acumen. Musically too he could sometimes be off-key in his assessments. Smitten by the charms of his protégé Heinz the homosexual Meek lavished money on a blond bombshell of dubious talent. He wasn’t keen either on the new Merseybeat sound, considered the Rolling Stones ‘a little warm-up band’ and- in a possibly apocryphal tale- turned away a then unknown Tom Jones without audition.

Moran’s play spans the years 1961-1967 and the play is as much about the power of music to transform a life as it is about Meek’s misadventures. Writing in collaboration with Geoff Goddard (an creepily excellent Gareth Corke) the two men find initial inspiration dwindling into dissension. O’Neill is supported by a really first-rate cast amongst whom Linda Robson gives a bravura performance as his kind-hearted landlady Violet, quite literally caught in the crossfire of Meeks’ twilight world. Satirical, poignant and often blisteringly funny.

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