HOME Theatre, Manchester; Thursday 19th September, 2019
Tommy used to work on the docks. Union’s been on strike: he’s down on his luck, it’s tough.
Gina works the diner all day. Working for her man: she brings home her pay, for love.
Paul O’Donnell is a genius, he’s got a great idea: he’s going to put on a musical – a full-scale theatrical extravaganza with gratuitous deployment of jazz hands, sparkly fingers, confetti cannons – the works. There’ll be a cast of thirty five musicians and dancers, it’ll be two-and-a-half hours long with an interval of twenty minutes – huge sell-out crowds will flock to the West End to see it.
There’s one big problem though: no one’s stumping up the cash to make it happen.
But Paul can not be deterred by such a fundamental commissioning catastrophe. If he can’t have his all-singing and all-dancing musical he’s going to do the next best thing instead: he’ll tell everyone all about it.
We’ve Got Each Other is an extraordinary hour – a bizarre yet wonderfully compelling mixture of:
- stand-up comedy
- sit-down comedy
- script recital
- story telling
All of it is centred around the astonishing possibility of creating an entire musical around one song. And what a song it is.
Paul’s delivery begins like a gentle episode of Jackanory, with him sat comfortably at a small chair on an entirely empty stage.
Despite having no set, no cast and no props, he somehow manages to slowly and gently conjure up something extraordinary: the possibility of a musical. Not an actual musical, just the possibility of it.
What Paul describes is viable. He’s not living in cloud cuckoo land like most theatre makers, his proposition is technically spot on. At this point any audience member who doesn’t know the lyrics to Livin’ On A Prayer is probably stuffed. But for the true believers Paul is preaching what we want to hear: a plot and scene breakdown that simply demands to be performed.
And in the absence of funding for a cast and a set, we have no choice but to set about performing it in our own heads.
We’re able to visualise it for ourselves because the lyrics have been buzzing around our subconscious minds for more than three decades: we’re already deeply invested in the story. We know that Tommy used to work on the docks, and that the union’s been on strike and he’s down on his luck.
But there’s the possibility of a huge back-story that most of use have never considered – it falls to Paul to propose the details. A fascinating world emerges: a world of tap-dancing dockers in East Manhattan, a waitress who falls in love, and an audience who just can’t get enough.
Paul O’Donnell devised a viable, irrelevant and truly fabulous piece of musical theatre. He got halfway there and then realised he had no cash. But he held on to what he had, not giving a shit whether he made it or not. And rather than pay a squillion pounds for West End tickets to actual musicals, you might want to give it a shot. We’ve Got Each Other – that’s a lot.
Photography: Alex Brenner