City Of Champions – London Theatre Workshop Until 5th August
Review By Charlotte Smith
When working with a subject so raw as child pedophilia, in the TV industry there is a lot at stake, research and preparation is key. Which is abundantly clear in Steve Brown’s “City of Champions”, a story of two child superstars living with the effects of early stardom and abuse as teens.
I was originally sceptical walking in to the intimate theatre to see a man lying on the bed with a teddy bear and multiple beer bottles around his bed. But throughout the play its poignant to see that the teddy bear isn’t just a toy but a symbol of what he lost as a child.
Joel Arnold as Laurie Munro leads a stellar cast. Laurie, is one of the boys who was subject to abuse. When we first meet him, he’s a free loving, with no cares, childish, a fun-loving man. However throughout the first act, it’s easy to see he’s hiding a secret that’s haunted him to this day. This comes more to light during Act 2 when we see how insecure and sensitive he is, and how the events still effect him many years after they took place. He played the character with such care and emotion, he made you feel for him throughout where he has so many layers to his personality.
Joe Southall played Lonnie Drake, Munro’s friend of 25 years. The chemistry between these two throughout was so easy to see, and how they got on together, playing and laughing and joking about life, it was as though you were watching two of your best friends. They have such a fun, carefree bond, chatting about girls and how to get them. They had personality and charisma you couldn’t help feel for the pair, laughing, crying, angry, upset, hurt and you genuinely want to help them, Lonnie is always looking out for Munro at the expense of himself. He tries to help Munro back on his feet with a bit of money but Munro shuns the idea.
Amy Burke plays Mary Celeste, her chemistry with Arnold is so free and you true, they work perfectly opposite each other, you can’t help but wish for something to happen between the pair. So with the events that happen its easy to see how she truly feels, the joy, love and heartbreak. you’re drawn into feeling sorry for her – and to see the journey they go down and how happy they made each other. It was a joy to see.
Maggie Robson takes the role of Barbara Munro, Laurie’s strict and stern mum, she shows signs of caring. However when she does she gets pushed away by Munro, it’s easy to see how Laurie felt having to suffer with what was going on and not have Barbara to come and help. At parts you could say she was as naive as Laurie about the events, but you can’t help wonder if she put him forward for the various roles in order to keep the money for herself. Robson played this character brilliantly, she acted as though Munro was her son in real life. Both her and Arnold worked perfectly opposite each other, they had a true mother/son relationship.
Ellie Ward is Amie Drake, Lonnie Drake’s Wife. Amie allows Lonnie to stay in their outhouse after he becomes homeless caused by his many addictions. She has a caring nature, but rightfully is also trying to think of her future with Lonnie. We know Lonnie has an alcohol problem, although being sober for many years some events cause him to return to his past. However this doesn’t stop Ward taking a caring approach throughout trying to keep him strong and to help him through.
Ian Mccurrach plays James Phillips, who was involved in the events that took place to the two boys when they first started out. He appears at the beginning of Act 2 and has a strong, overbearing approach toward Munro and Drake. Phillip’s brings many more sceptical messages towards the boys, still thinking its ok to try to repeat the actions of years ago. We see how scared Munro truly is and how he hasn’t gotten over what happened, when he can’t even be in the same room as Phillips, and you can’t blame him, you feel for Munro when you see how Phillips acts towards him.
All six characters were perfectly cast and hugely talented, and the show as a whole was enjoyable. I highly recommend it.
On until 5th August don’t miss this poignant and thought-provoking play. Book your tickets here via the London Theatre workshop website.