Everybody knows the story of The Rolling Stones, right?

Not everybody knows about the man who formed the band, Brian Jones, though.

Written by Tim Keogh (Thorn), this play explores the life and death of one of the founding members of arguably the most enduring acts in the history of pop music.

From auditioning a young Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1962 to his death 1969 just weeks after his split from the band, Keogh leaves no stone unturned in this examination of Jones. He manages to treat his subject with the sensitivity he deserves, while at the same time not shying away from the problems that turned him from one of the most promising multi-instrumentalists of his generation into the 27-year-old who died in his pool.

Keogh has form for this sort of subject matter. His play Thorn dealt with a certain Stephen Patrick Morrissey of The Smiths fame.

It’s a piece that really challenges the view that Jones was a victim of the 60’s excesses and the idea he just couldn’t cope with the pressure that fame brought with it.

Jones, who is played by the understated Jake Bush, is shown as a vulnerable and easily lost young man. His relationship with the mother of his third child, Pat Andrews, (Jessica Porter), and Anita Pallenberg (Sophie Koumides), arguably his muse, are both explored, although its towards the end of the play and his relationship with his housekeeper Mary (Hilly Barber) where you really see his frailty exposed to the world at large.

This cast really made the most of very minimal set design. Sometimes, when the script, cast and director are in sync, less really is more.

The direction by Ben Rivers makes such great use of lighting you quickly buy into the fact that this is a dingy flat or a gig at the Marquee club and not just a stage with six seats.

The stand out performance though really has to go to Pete Austen who, to quote the song, moves like Jagger. He contorts his body with such elasticity, that you believe him as the lead singer from the moment he leaps from his seat.

Jones descent from happy go lucky father of three (“at the last count…”) to someone overtaken by his insecurity where Pallenberg and his place in the band he founded and named is handled with real care.

The jealousy between the three musicians, especially when Jones discovers Pallenberg is now sleeping with Keith Richards after a trip to Morocco where he (Jones) was abusive towards her is over and done in seconds, but the simmering tension between them is there underpinning the play from the moment Jagger and Richards discover Jones has a different contract to the rest of the band.

My only gripe was that at the beginning the stage microphones were set a little too high and there was a touch of feedback which played on my companions hearing aid and distorted the speech, but it was picked up and dealt with after a couple of minutes.

From a relatively inexperienced cast, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. Their interaction never felt forced, and although the two cast members who were “smoking” were using unlit props, it was made to look as realistic as possible.

The play moves from Salford to Hebden Bridge little theatre for two nights on the 1st and 2nd November, and it is certainly worth the trip to see.

Out of Time 4*/5

Published by @RochFolk

Folk music and fringe theatre critic and reviewer.

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