Just For One Day ★★★★ The Old Vic | Jan 26 - Mar 30, 2024

If you missed the concert that defined a generation, here's a show that will take you back to that special moment. It celebrates a time when the good and great of the music world came together to address the devastating issue of a famine in Ethiopia. Just For One Day seeks to give the audience a flavour of the event, and to take them behind the scenes of its creation. We first see the struggle of brash, but altruistic, Bob Geldof from the group, The Boomtown Rats, as he corrals some great artists into recording the hit, "Do They Know It's Christmas," which was then followed by the American anthem "We Are the World." We then share Geldof's realisation that it will take more than those well-meaning efforts to address the complex issue that has moved him. Live Aid is born! This recounting of its production is tied together by the story of Geldof's determination to do something and his learning curve about the difficulties of the Ethiopian situation and the challenges of pulling together a monumental transcontinental event in a very short time. The narrative also gives us glimpses into the lives of some behind-the-scenes creators of the show and into a couple of its audience members. We follow an idealistic young student, Suzanne, and her skeptic boyfriend, who runs a record shop, as they set out to attend Geldof's Wembley Stadium concert. There is also the older Suzanne who reflects on her experience, and whose nostalgia is contrasted with a young woman from the present generation who questions the enduring value and present relevance of Geldof's efforts. It is often easy to make the perfect the enemy of the good. In fact, if all this show accomplished were to raise these questions and to initiate some debate about how we as individuals address our present period of humanitarian crises, it would be a success, but the music and performances here are outstanding. Craige Els does a terrific job as Geldof, and the high quality of all the cast make it difficult to single out individual performances. However, we loved Danielle Steers as Marsha and her duets with Ashley Campbell were super. As Margaret Thatcher, Kerry Enright gets it just right, and her comic interchanges with Els are real highlights. Full points also to the sound engineers who have managed to create a rock concert atmosphere without threatening eardrum damage to the audience - obviously, no small feat when put in the context of similar shows. With absolutely splendid renditions of classics including "Heroes," "Every Breath You Take," "Blowin' In The Wind" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," this show could exist on the music alone, but Just For One Day has a lot more to say. As with the original Live Aid, this is a show that is so much more than a concert!

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Manuel Harlan

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