Ska musical turns back the clock

Andy Roberts, writing for BBC South East Wales News, looks at a ska-inspired new musical set in Wales.
“There was no money about – everyone was skint. But anyone could be a rude boy…”

Tony Wright’s memories of growing up in Cardiff thirty years ago have strong parallels with the present day.

His experiences form the basis of Rude: A Ska Musical being staged at a former snooker hall in Cardiff.

Set in 1980 against the backdrop of economic crisis and rising unemployment the play looks at the dilemmas faced by black, white and mixed race youngsters.

Theatre company Give It A Name promises an ‘immersive’ experience for the audience by staging the musical with a live band in a Caribbean bar and restaurant.

The venue in the Riverside area was previously a well-known haunt as Rajah’s snooker hall.

The story of love, friendship and growing up centres on the character of Roddy, a mixed race 47-year-old looking back on his teenage self who found music to be his saviour.

It’s also a story of race and identity, reflecting the tensions between British-born black and Asian youth and their immigrant parents.

With a century of multicultural experience behind them, working class communities of Cardiff may have suffered less racial tension than other cities in the 1960s and 1970s.

But Wright acknowledges the role that the Two Tone scene played in bringing black, white and mixed race youth even closer together.

“There was a subculture in Cardiff – rude boys, skinheads and mods,” he recalls.

“At the time I was mainly into reggae, a bit of a rasta, and so were my friends – we were all unemployed.

“There was a gang of white guys and suddenly we heard these new tunes coming out, and they kind of united people.

“Two Tone – says it all. Everyone was just together – it was a good time.”

John Norton, cast member and creative producer for Give It A Name, admits there’s a political angle to the play, as in all the company’s work.

But he prefers to stress the strength through adversity shown by young people in difficult times.

He also points out the play’s purpose in correcting false memories of the 1980s in the minds of individuals and in popular culture at large.

“There’s a big interest in those times in a slightly false way with the revival of eighties fashion, the Dallas end of it… the surfaces of those times,” he says.

“What we’re trying to investigate is something to do with the reality for ordinary young people growing up in Cardiff of those times rather than the gloss and glamour.

“Out of that awful time … came a really great cultural backlash in the form of ska music amongst many other things.

“That was a really positive product that came from young people resisting what was the macro culture – I find that in itself very exciting.”

Wright agrees that despite the passage of time, the issues raised by the play are still relevant.

He adds that seeing his life represented by actors is an educational experience.

“It’s scary in a way because it’s part of my life but also entertaining to see how Give It A Name staged it, and made me see things about my life which I never saw.

“When I see kids growing up today, it’s the same message – they’re unemployed, out of work.

“As the song (A Message To You Rudi) says, stop your messing around – think of the future.”

Rude: A Ska Musical takes place at the Rocking Chair Caribbean Bar and Grill, Riverside, Cardiff from Wednesday 8 to Saturday 18 December

Story from BBC NEWS appeared originally at:

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