Quiffs are high for Jez ‘Jerusalem’ Butterworth’s rock and roll Soho gangster comedy, which has a super-hot cast, a filthy mouth, and more pungent moments than a hangover on Berwick Street. Yes, if you’ve ever fantasised about TV’s Merlin, Ron Weasley and ‘Q’ from James Bond going mental with knives, guns and speed pills then this is the show for you. But Ian Rickson’s subtle West End production has a lot more to offer than thrills for the fangirls (and boys).
Award-winning 1995 debut ‘Mojo’ was the lethally funny weapon with which Butterworth held up the theatre world as a young man. It hasn’t aged a bit. It’s a swaggering young man’s piece: high on aimless aggro and ripe spiv talk, set in the backroom of a dodgy 50s nightclub where – according to professional smalltimer Potts – all the teenage girls in London shit themselves with excitement whenever rock and roller Silver Johnny thrusts himself onto the stage.
As Johnny, young actor Tom Rhys Harries nearly steals the show merely by limbering up to go on and make those girls ‘cream their cocoa’. But the real drama unfolds after the gig, when feckless young wannabes Sweets, Skinner, Potts and Baby jockey for power after Baby’s hardman father Ezra turns up dead, in two different bins.
The young cast are superb at playing these bruised apples who want to go bad. As Sweets, Rupert Grint makes an impressive stage debut as sidekick’s sidekick (imagine Ron has dropped out of Hogwarts to deal pills and learned a lot more swearwords). Daniel Mays is cringe-makingly good as his jittery pal, Potts. And Colin Morgan is unrecognisable as their petulant scapegoat, Skinny.
But the night belongs to Ben Whishaw. As abused young Baby, whose dead dad ‘did the funny on him’, he channels all the ambiguous sexual menace of the quiffs-and-blades era. His feline progress from reckless joker to gangster is completely riveting – and his singing bodes well for that forthcoming Freddie Mercury movie. Like its heroes, Butterworth’s play sometimes has more mouth than trousers. But it makes up for it in thrills and spills: this is as sharp as the West End gets.
By Caroline McGinn
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Average User Rating
3 / 5
- 5 star:7
- 4 star:5
- 3 star:6
- 2 star:4
- 1 star:7
Daniel Mays was exceptional and, combined with a strong performance from Rupert Grint, got a lot of laughs. Ben Wishaw also stood out however it felt like this character had more to give; why did he get the nickname Baby? Throughout it semeed as though some of the story that may have built more a connection between the audience and characters was sacrificed for the fun and fights. Perhaps my own confusion between Brendan Coyle as Mickey instead of Mr Bates may have caused me to not feel anything for this character, leaving the ending flat and messy when I wanted to be torn and heartbroken. Overall a good fun play but just not quite achieving something more heartfelt and bold, which it appears to want to be.
To start off, I think that Mojo was tremendously acted and wonderfully directed. That alone had me captivated for much of the show. At the same time though, I would have to say that the play itself left me cold. In general, the characters were not likable, not relatable, and I felt terribly unsympathetic towards the whole lot (with an exception of the character Skinny, played by the fantastic Colin Morgan.) Again, I would not place this as an oversight of the cast, but more a flaw in the writing. The end especially concludes in a jumbled mess that doesn't exactly make sense, and leaves the audience scratching their heads. Is there a deeper meaning I missed? May be, but objectively I would say the fault lies with the writer.
Enjoyable, funny, thought provoking and so reminiscent of the era. Ben Wishaw was fab with Rupert Grint making a very solid debut on the theatre stage. Enthralling from start to finish
Wonderful cast, disappointing play. Though it had its moments, in general the show is just flawed. Too high a pitch - it launches loud, fast, and exhausting, and never lets up - and a really shoddy resolution. In hindsight, shouldn't have surprised such a lame duck ending after what had come before, but still a disappointment. Standout performance (no surprise): Ben Whishaw, who makes the most of his "cool cat"/thug persona.
Started off quite slowly, with a lot of the dialogue lost in mumbled accents. Some of the script felt quite jerky and I wasn't always sure what was happening with the story line. Greatly improved with act II, Ben Wishaw stood out as Baby and Rupert Grint was surprising as an endearing Sweets. Overall I enjoyed it but it didn't quite hit all the right notes.
Outstanding from start to finish. A knockout performance by every single cast member. The surprising knife edge of comedy and drama was kept razor sharp right until the end. Interesting to think that people recording a negative experience were even at the same play. Rupert Grint in his stage debut was captivating and it was difficult to take eyes off Ben Wishaw's rendition of the calmly psychotic Baby. Colin Morgan threw himself into the suffering Skinny role with boundless energy. Daniel Mays and Rupert Grint provide a madcap relationship that is silky smooth as a foil to Brendan Coyle's menace. Be prepared for constant language we wouldn't necessarily want to use in our own kitchens, but which is entirely appropriate to the era and unfolding plot. Well worth seeing.
Hugely disappointing after Jerusalem. Two-dimensional characters, stilted unnatural dialogue that outdoes Pinter, very little narrative development, my main response was boredom and watch-watching desperate for it all to end. This play is firmly in "The Emperor's New Clothes" category. I wouldn't trust any critic who waxes lyrical about it.
Mojo promised so much, with Butterworth, Rickson and Whishaw to name but a few involved, and in some areas it didn't disappoint at all. The cast were superb, particularly in Act 2, however there were some slow areas, where the comic side wasn't quite hit. The acting varied but Ben Whishaw stole the show proving why he is one of our leading actors. Whishaw's dancing and singing a personal highlight. Overall, I would defiantly recommend the play to others but I lack the desire to see it again. It lacked the spark that, say, Jerusalem had.
Utterly unenjoyable. It felt overacted, the characters were never developed beyond Del Boyish antics, the script was poor and the storyline hackneyed. Ben Wishaw was great though.
Utterly disappointing. Felt overacted, with very little character development beyond Del Boyish antics. The script was awful, and the storyline hackneyed. Ben Wishaw was great, however.
Came out wondering what I'd just seen. Here's a reflection after a day The story is paper thin with so many ?'s - you just have to let it go. Don't give me the 'depth' crap... won't wear. It was so fleeting that it must be the playwright's name that carried it past the dustbin and into the arms of a headline cast. The acting is indeed formidably. Being a 'Sarf' Londoner, I'd guess I collected must of the motormouth as it flew past. God know what others make of it. Sydney (Mays) and Sweets( Grint) reminded me of a Skakespeare 'device' - the comedic link-piece-bystanders. You'd have to ask a Thesp or a Literature student for the formal description...I'm far too thick Coyle was hanging in there with a thin character with a more thinly drawn script What the role of Skinney was and whether the acting was good or bad- don't ask me - completely confused Baby (Wishaw) seemed to salvage what could have been a real car-accident......if anything is worth the price the ( very hot) seat ....all in all.... not really
Awful. Save your money. Play was mediocre. Seats we paid £40 for weren't fit for humans. Had to leave T the interval to salvage some ability to walk. Shame on the theatre for charging theatre ticket prices for cramped shelves with a poor view. £160 wasted! Gave it one star rating because Time Out doesn't allow you to give less.
An extraordinary cast giving a tireless tour-de-force performance. The show mixes superior storytelling, incredibly funny dialogue and any playwright's dream cast. The entire cast is electric with Daniel Mays anchoring the show and Ben Wishaw giving a performance so alive and raw it can only be described as dangerous. You'll both laugh and be in awe the whole time. A must-see.
Great cast and some great acting but zero story, far too long and very very dull. 8 out of 8 of us had a nap during the performance, which just about says it all.
If you're looking for fast-paced action and a gripping storyline, 'Mojo' probably isn't for you. It is a character piece - a performer's piece - and an excellent opportunity to watch actors inhabit the lives of their characters most completely, but I did find myself often at a loss to figure what - if anything - was going on. Ben Whishaw is stunning in his role as Baby; son of a brutally murdered father, who in turn becomes a brutal murderer. Daniel Mays also is a standout performer; his comic timing with Rupert Grint a wonder to behold. Brendan Coyle's role as the club owner leaves much to be desired, though this felt like more like lack of development than want for good acting skills. I think many people might be turned off by the bad language. There are plenty of jokes to be had, but ultimately I was left bored and uninterested in what these characters had to say.
Having seen Jerusalem and the incredibly powerful performance by Mark Rylance, the danger was that MOJO would disappoint. This cast of young actors, with a wealth of tv and film experience, made their stage presence known with performances that were humourous, touching, menacingly dark and so believeable that the tv and film personas we know them for were disappeared. Ben Wishaw is mesmerising as Baby his performance is both breathtaking and slightly disturbing. The stunning combination of Butterworth's thought provoking writing and an incredible cast of British talent is the reason that West End Theatre is without doubt, the worlds best.
Good show with top performance from all cast. It was, however too long and too much foul language for me.
This play had a Pinteresque sense of dismay permeating the comedy so expertly put together by Butterworth and delivered by a robust and endearing cast. There was always the sense of the awful past, present and future - but a future which one knows will make its way too soon towards its inexorably tragic end. The influences of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot were evident in the knowledge that there was something going on outside the characters' immediate experience, all the time. Notwithstanding that feeling, the audience accepted the invitation to become completely immersed in the action onstage and engaged with these young men's lives wholeheartedly. A great play and a great cast. My only regret was being in the balcony, where I could neither see nor hear everything perfectly all the time.
This was a brilliantly acted, frenetic piece of theatre. It was edgy, funny and ultimately sad. In amongst the energetic motion and rapid dialogue, there were telling moments of stillness. My only reservation was not about the play but about the seat. My seat was in the Balcony and at £30 I felt with was expensive as the view was restricted (not officially) and there was little leg room. As everyone had to lean forward to see, there was a lot of the action I could not see. I would not recommend a seat in the Balcony except in the very front row.
Much ado about very little. Complex telling of a simple tale, waiting for reveals. I thought it was just me...maybe there was something more? I overheard the women beside me voicing the same question, "What in the world was going on?" We joked that we might understand more after the second half. At the end, however, one of those women was going to Google to see if there was anything more to the story. I had the same discussion with other women in the toilet after! All in all, interesting characters and not much happens other than a death or two. A lot of frantic dialog in between.
After months of anticipation, I finally got to see ‘Mojo’; and let me tell you, it was well worth the wait. With a stellar-studded ensemble cast of Daniel Mays, Rupert Grint, Brendan Coyle, Colin Morgan, Tom Rhys Harries and the ever-amazing Ben Whishaw, could it really have been anything else but fantastic? Although the plot, whilst reasonably entertaining, isn’t nearly as gripping as, say, ‘Chimerica’, the in depth character studies, witty dialogue and fantastic acting certainly make up for any short-comings in that department. We are introduced to the six members of a gang at a crisis point; the more-intelligent boss’ lackey, Sidney (a scene-stealing, constantly-moving Mays); the less-clever, ever-anxious Sweets (Grint, proving his future as the next Martin Freeman, likeable Everyman); the incredibly irritating, self—important Skinny Luke (played by Morgan perfectly, in that he was simply skin-crawlingly annoying); acting-chief Mickey (Coyle, who has somewhat less material to work with than the others, but plays his part very well); distant, irrational and deeply disturbed Baby (a superb Whishaw, once again acting the removed, child-man character with aplomb) and Rhys Harries as the victim or pawn of the inter-gang politics, Silver Johnny. There isn’t a weak link within the ensemble, but there are two particularly strong players: Whishaw and Mays particularly light up the stage and draw your eyes to them, even when not speaking. Mays is incredibly energetic, leaping and dancing into action out of his chair, in and out of doors, across the stage. The droll dialogue between Sidney and Sweets shows Mays and Grint’s talent for comedy, and helps lighten the mood at moments of tension. However, Whishaw provides the flipside to this, with bursts of spine-chilling laughter and sudden snatched outpourings of melodious 1950s rock ‘n’ roll that tighten the atmosphere to breaking point. In a world of action, gratuitous swearing, and constant violence, Baby’s proffering of toffee apples, his abrupt breaks into song and his silences carry more impact, and seem to hint at a deeper, more disturbing malevolency within. The staging is sound, if not especially exciting, with the opening scene of Silver Johnny preparing backstage for his big entrance into a hoard of screaming girls being particularly well done. Whilst no words are actually spoken, we can see Johnny working himself up, preparing, smoking a cigarette, as he listens to the nigh-on hysterical shouts from downstairs. As he finally enters, the entire auditorium and stage is thrown into pitch black, with only the yelling and squealing filling your ears. It is as if you are there, among the crowd, in the darkened nightclub; however, although exciting to the point of fever-pitch, the effect of the darkness and screams also brings to mind murkier thoughts, hinting at the shadiness behind the show. Overall, a brilliant must-see production with one of the best ensemble casts you’ll find anywhere – if you can get yourself tickets by any means, do.
best theatre in years. Makes me want to go back, and not in the circle thank you, but closer to the action to recapture more of those fast flying lines- albeit risking a chair slung in my lap. Who cares. So much energy, preposterous humour and sexy moves. Superb!
a-MAYS-ing! Daniel Mays gives a brilliant performance as Sidney, with perfect timing and comedic excellence. This is a dark story but the constant use of the F-word, particularly in the first half, does distract from the story. Ben Wishaw is as brilliant as ever, as the damaged 'Baby', but the characters depicted by Brendan Coyle's and Rupert Grint needed more work. This was the first preview and so there is time for them to work on this before the opening night on the 12th November. We'll worth going to see.
Very, very thought provoking piece with an excellent cast. I had the pleasure of seeing the first preview, and if the rest of the run grows from there, it's going to be incredible. Mojo is full of a dark humor that at times splits the audience between full laughter and uncomfortable tittering; it's a mercurial production that seems to take as much pleasure in making its audience uneasy as the characters do in torturing each other. In turns bitter, sweet, funny, and horrific, Mojo definitely leaves an impression.