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Just for One Day | The Old Vic

Just For One Day, written by John O’Farrell and directed by Luke Shepperd, takes the audience on a nostalgic journey back to the iconic Live Aid event of July 1985. Premiering on the stage at The Old Vic, the musical follows the journey of Bob Geldof, portrayed on the reviewed evening by understudy Eddie Mann, and his efforts to organise the monumental concert aimed at raising funds for the famines in Ethiopia.

The first act of the musical begins on the day of the Live Aid concert, only to travel back a year to showcase the conception of the idea. It delves into the recording of the classic 'Do They Know It’s Christmas?' and provides a glimpse into the hardships faced by those affected by the Ethiopian famines. The second act shifts focus to the run-up of the concert and the event itself, attempting to shed light on the untold stories of the ordinary individuals who played a part in this historic event.

A commendable aspect of the production is its emphasis on the "little people," allowing multiple narratives to unfold and providing a deeper understanding of the inspiration and significance behind Live Aid. Despite the feel-good tone and celebratory nostalgia, the musical raises questions about the white saviour complex, offering a contemporary lens through the character of Amara, played by Abiona Omonua, who educates on the limitations and logistical challenges of the cause.

A notable framing device in the show is the character Jemma, portrayed by Naomi Katiyo, a present-day 20-something who challenges Geldof's efforts as a white saviour. This device adds a layer of critical reflection to the narrative, prompting the audience to consider the complexities of the historical event through a more modern perspective.

Music plays a pivotal role in the production. Matthew Brind's musical direction stands out as a testament to his understanding of the historical context and the emotional resonance of each song. The live band, undoubtedly an integral part of this musical journey, delivers a performance that complements the energy and spirit of the original Live Aid concerts. Their verve and passion creates an immersive experience, transporting the audience back to the electrifying atmosphere of the 1985 event. As a jukebox musical, the integration of iconic hits from the era is seamless, with each song carefully placed to propel the narrative forward. The audience is treated to live renditions of classic tunes performed at the original concerts, including Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, The Who’s My Generation, and David Bowie’s Heroes.

Featuring a cast of 20, this production stands out as a true ensemble piece. The diverse and talented cast reflects the world's diversity today, with each member getting an opportunity to shine. The performers avoid impersonating the original rock and pop stars, opting instead to pay tribute while infusing the performance with their unique personalities, interpretations, and flair. Together, they soar and deliver a rock-fuelled performance full of optimism, celebrating the power of unity for a greater cause.

Aesthetically, the show is a visual treat. Soutra Gilmour's set seamlessly transitions between the heart of the concert and diverse settings before the event. Andrzej Goulding's video design, along with Howard Hudson's lighting, contribute to creating visually stimulating sequences. Ebony Molina's choreography is slick and sharp, adding an extra layer of excitement and enhancing the overall


While the spectre of white saviourism looms over the narrative, Just For One Day conveys a message of hope, love and change. It serves as a reminder that we can be heroes, not just for one day, but for the enduring impact our collective actions can have on the world.

Just For One Day plays at The Old Vic until 30th March. For information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Manuel Harlan


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