Thorn at The King's Arms, Salford
Please note this review was originally posted on North West End and can be found here.
Fans of The Smiths will recognise the billing of Thorn as a play about Morrissey. The poster is reminiscent of the famous trio outside Salford Lads Club, the title alludes to The Boy With A Thorn In His Side track and the second run of this play is put on just weeks before Morrissey’s latest album is released on November 17th.
Thorn explores the troubled young life of Steven Patrick Morrissey growing up in 1970’s working-class Manchester. We’re introduced into the living room of the Irish Catholic Morrissey family, where a chintzy orange and brown throw is enough alone to set the time period, but a bursting glam rock soundtrack seals the illusion.
The locality of the piece is unfortunately overworked. Seemingly every town in Manchester is mentioned which feels too much like a lazy engagement tactic than anything, anyone from Manchester knows about our Morrissey heritage, the small but sold out audience will be well-enough engaged with the content.
The characters too struggle to fully develop in the 60-minute running time, although all the performers were strong the dialogue could be forced at times. There were elements of caricature in the overtly offensive and good-for-nothing alcoholic father, the equally hard-working hard-done by mother, the girly bubbly sister and most of all an inexplicably angry and nonsensical priest/headmaster/yob.
That’s not to say that the piece doesn’t have some great potential though. There’s an old school kitchen-sink realism in the drama, which really adds to the effect of this throwback piece. Although caricature, nobody would argue that racism, homophobia, sexism, religious extremism, immigration and all the other themes covered did exist at the time and are still relevant today, but perhaps more focus on one or two themes might bring some clarity to the main story being told.
At its core Thorn is a coming of age story of a young boy who feels like an outsider. Daniel Cassidy gives an excellent performance as Morrissey and is supported by some strong actors. Sister Jackie (Beth Hunter) and mother Betty (Elizabeth Poole) are great relief to the abrasive other characters, both offering a light in Morrissey’s dark young mind. Comedic duo Doyle and Connolly confidently provided the much-needed comic relief.
This play is worth the price of a ticket for any Smiths fan. Tim Keogh’s first step into the theatre world are brimming with potential and Thorn is an enjoyable hour of musical reminiscence into an era that Glam Rock made musically triumphant but perhaps we wouldn’t want to revisit.