The world is run by harsh individuals, forcing man to fight against man. Love and peace are in short supply and the younger generation are turning to mind-altering drugs to help them cope. But enough of 2016; Hair is set nearly half a century ago.
Manchester Hope Mill’s revival of this classic 1968 hippy musical could not be more timely. After the year we’ve all been through, we need to believe in the good within people more than ever. The show’s opening soundbite announcing President-elect Trump is a chilling reminder of how history can all too easily repeat itself. The blues are quickly banished, however, once the 12-strong cast fill the space. Their boundless enthusiasm and sheer energy hits you from the outset. They sing, dance, leap and prowl all over the place (and all over each other).
Performing in such an intimate space could be daunting as there’s nowhere to hide. The audience are close enough to see every pore but each member of the cast remains 100 per cent committed throughout, performing no less than 41 songs across two hours. The vocals were particularly impressive and the strong backing sounded a lot bigger than a mere five-piece band.
The bulk of the story is told through song as the peace-loving tribe try to convince one of their number to dodge the draft. But Claude (a compelling Robert Metson) can’t quite let go of a sense of duty and his transformation towards the end is as effective as it is shocking.
Pop anthems like Let The Sunshine In, Good Morning Starshine and Aquarius keep the mood buoyant but the backdrop of Vietnam and the nuclear threat is never far away, ensuring that things don’t get too happy clappy. Thankfully, the trippier moments are not overly rose-coloured either. It’s not easy to find the balance between feel-good and reality in a musical like Hair but director Jonathan O’Boyle has managed to get the mix just right.
A look around the audience at the end revealed smiles on every face. Job done.
Hair is at Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester until December 3, 2016. For more information, click here.
To read Northern Soul’s interview with the director of Hair, click here.