January has always been my least favourite month. It’s freezing cold, alcohol-free (I’ve been doing Dry January since my Evening Standard days) and there are countless Christmas bills dropping through the letterbox. So in amongst chasing deadlines and picking fallen branches from the garden I decided to take 24 hours off and escape to London.
The trip was just the ticket. I managed to book a discounted room at The Hoxton (when it comes to price, decor, chic Shoreditch location and the friendliest staff it’s my favourite place to stay in the capital). I was thrilled to find that the rooms have recently had an even more stylish makeover. They were great before but now they boast wooden floors, desks you can actually work at, blissfully comfy leather armchairs and great lighting. I had to give myself a firm talking-to to make myself leave the room. I could easily have spent my precious day in London holed up there. But after a quick trip to The Cambridge Satchel Company’s pop-up store in Spitalfields to get a satchel monogrammed and a delicious lunch of sweet potato falafel at Leon it was time to meet my daughter and whizz to the theatre.
We’d booked to see Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre in Panton Street – largely because we were keen to see Rupert Grint (aka Ron Weasley) making his stage debut in Ian Rickson’s revival of Jez Butterworth’s first play.
The show is set in a seedy Soho nightclub during the 1950s. Ezra, the owner of the club (whom the audience never claps eyes on), has recently discovered a teenage rock and roll sensation called Silver Johnny and is busy doing a deal to sell him to a rival. Meanwhile the bunch of lackies who work at the club are trying to work out what exactly is going on. What’s going on, it emerges, is that Ezra’s body has been sawn in half (it’s found the next morning, dumped in two dustbins at the back of the club) and Silver Johnny has vanished into thin air.
The production is fast-paced, shocking and hilarious by turns and stunningly acted. Grint is great as the hapless Sweets but even so he is outshone by Daniel Mays, who plays Sweets’ motormouth sidekick Sidney Potts, and Ben Whishaw as Ezra’s damaged and slightly sinister son Baby. Downton Abbey star Brendan Coyle is on great form as Mickey, who starts out as a dead cert to take over the club but crumbles before our eyes, and Colin Morgan makes a poignant fall guy trying to keep his end up and usually failing.
But the actor who sticks in my mind is Tom Rhys Harries, who plays the silver-suited Silver Johnny. He has a smaller role than the rest of the cast but it’s got to be the most challenging. I don’t want to spoil his jaw-dropping scene in the final act but take it from me, it’s astonishing…