Sob Story centres around six friends who are rehearsing for their shot at Yorkshire’s Got Talent. Stakes are high – there’s a £150 Matalan voucher for the winners – and the group are convinced they’ve got what it takes to beat the local competition.
We meet the group in that late teen/early twenties limbo between high school and adulthood. Each member falls into stereotype – Sophie (Mhairi McCall) is the bossy one, Jess (Sarah Dingwall) and Olivia (Niamh Kinane) bring the glamour, Grace (Claire Docherty) loves a drink, Rosie (Becky Niven) is the rational one and Aimee (Lana Pheutan) is the outsider. When the group come together to rehearse in a remote barn, Aimee is singled out as the least talented by her peers. She’s frequently ridiculed by her bandmates, who seem to revel in pointing out her perceived faults.
With the contest a week away and voices and moves not quite gelling, it becomes clear the sextet is going to need something extra to win over the judges – a gimmick or a sob story. As they try and create an attention-grabbing dialogue, the straightforward comedy-musical takes a dark turn as secrets are revealed and the singers have to give the performance of their lives.
As well as providing excellent vocal renditions of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Beyoncé hits, the actors convey a believable friendship dynamic, delivering unforced comedic, colloquial dialogue. Writers Calum Ferguson and Lewis Lauder’s script is full of zingy one-liners and acerbic wit that move the play along at a great pace. Around the halfway point a shocking twist is revealed and the tone shifts dramatically. Thankfully the performers – Pheutan in particular – are capable of handling the key change to stop the piece hitting a bum note.
The staging of Donna Soto-Morettini’s play is simple, with only a couple of benches and seats to allow the performers to move freely across the stage during their musical routines. That said, as the tension increases the space starts to feel claustrophobic, especially when the play reaches its shocking climax. The power dynamic within the group changes and callbacks to earlier songs take on a more desperate tone.
Some of the drama feels rushed towards the end of the 60-minute show, questions arise and some jokes seem deliberately provocative, however these are minor gripes in what is otherwise a solid piece of theatre.