Just for One Day, Young Vic, 2024
Photo: Manuel HarlanCraige Els (Bob Geldof) and company
  • Theatre, Musicals
  • Recommended


Just for One Day

3 out of 5 stars

This slick musical tribute to Live Aid is weirdly obsessed with Gen-Z’s approval of Bob Geldof’s legendary concert


Time Out says

If you’re in the market for sexy rearrangements of AOR smashes combined with a hagiographic account of Bob Geldof’s Band Aid and Live Aid projects, then boy are you going to love ‘Just for One Day’.

Directed by ‘& Juliet’ man Luke Sheppard, and with a book by humourist John O’Farrell, who did the honours for the ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ musical, it kiiiind of feels like an old man collaring you in a pub to tell you how great the mid-’80s were. 

A fairly entertaining old man, admittedly: Craige Els is a hoot as cranky, present-day Geldof who, for nebulous reasons, has been collared by a Gen-Z-er called Jemma (Naomi Katiyo) to answer her questions about the concert. His pathologically abrasive manner and refusal to pronounce the project an unqualified success sort of stops it coming across as too saccharine. But Jemma’s attempts to ask hard questions of Bob are risible and easily batted away. Even if he’s ambivalent about his success, the view of the show itself is clearly that Live Aid was an unalloyed triumph, both the concert and its legacy. 

With the exception of Geldof and his Band Aid co-writer Midge Ure, it omits pop stars as characters. It’s a choice that allows it to play freer with the music and not be bogged down by naff Bowie impressions. There is a notional attempt to foreground ‘ordinary people’ who went to the show. But leaving out Freddie Mercury, Paul McCartney, Bono et al leaves the actual concert feeling abstract: there are slick 21st-century arrangements of songs that were played there, but the only actual sense that a concert is supposed to be happening comes from Geldof’s reactions to it. In omitting the pop stars and their various egos, it omits the reasons the show and song were so compelling to the world.

The other big thing it leaves out are Ethiopians: they’re an invisible presence, constantly referenced, never there, a suffering other. While we need to be wary of fetishising the pain of others, it ultimately feels weird to have Geldof talk about them so much if they’re not represented – there’s a suspicion that archive footage of famine simply wouldn’t fit the show’s tasteful aesthetic.

Ultimately your love of ‘Just for One Day’ will almost certainly rest on your fondness for the original songs and Matthew Brind’s modernised musical arrangements of them: think more soul, more sincerity. Sheppard helms the whole thing with tremendous assurance, and a polished, diverse, artfully outsidery-looking cast, clad in muted hues, makes seemingly effortless work of Ebony Molina’s fluid, dignified choreography. 

For me what really grated was the show’s midlife crisis-y obsession with the idea of Live Aid looking credible in the eyes of Gen-Z. ‘Just for One Day’ is ultimately a fantasy about the woke youth of today questioning the music and ethics of Live Aid and concluding… it was all brilliant. But why care about this? Judging by the audience I saw it with, nobody under 50 is going to see it anyway. I’d rather a full-throated celebration of it all, than two-and-a-half hours of fretting that some imaginary twentysomething wouldn’t approve.


£10-£85. Runs 2hr 30min
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