Having read the novel Factor 2025 which at times had me laughing out loud when I wasn’t feeling like I wanted to slap the central character. I was interested to see how the book would be adapted to the stage.
Arriving at the theatre I was given my tickets in a white envelope with a list of the cast, it read like a line-up of acts for a Royal Variety show.
Comedian and author Johnny Tait has very cleverly written a play with a deep disturbing underlining story of how far a TV producer is prepared to go to increase viewing figures. With there being no boundaries on how far the producer Trenton Powell is prepared to manipulate the hopefuls seeking fame and fortune.
His poor put-upon assistant Mellissa (Natasha Lamar) bears the brunt of his anger, whilst the contestants are used as pawns in his quest to get The Factor back on TV’s top Saturday night slot.
The first auditionee was a very talented vocalist played by Jess Stevens, her story of how she was working as a delivery driver in London did not appeal to Powell, so she was very quickly dismissed, until the fact that she had just been released from prison after serving 4 years for manslaughter was told, then the producer became interested and she was on the show.
The strength of the storyline lay with the very attractive Mary-Anne (Christine Lynn) and her disabled brother Sebastian (Thom Jackson-Wood), who has learning disabilities. Powell separates the devoted twins and moulds Mary-Anne into a cold-hearted, fame seeking, nymphomaniac that leads to fatal consequences.
Despite the tragedy, this black comedy had the audience rolling in the aisles, with comedians Marcus Gibson, Charmaine Davies and comedy double act Mid Life 80s, amongst the talented cast, playing the role of auditionees.
There was an excellent cameo appearance by East End gangster turned film actor Dave Courtney, that the character Vinny Jones played in ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ was based on.
The audience were screaming with laughter until five minutes from the end when the twists and turns knocked the audience into stunned silence.
Then dance troupe Jade Thomas and the Collection bounced onto the stage injecting an energetic finale to the show before the entire cast took a well-deserved standing ovation from a delighted audience.
If you feel that modern-day talent shows are a fix and you like cynical humour, I would recommend Factor 2025 to you.
Review by Linda Scott
The Rhodes Arts Centre