Tale of punk godfather's rise and fall hits all the right notes
Good Vibrations. Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Joy may be a surprising word to describe a bunch of pogo-ing punks playing their 100-mile-an-hour music, but it's the right word to describe the atmosphere at the Lyric for the opening night of Good Vibrations.
The story of Terri Hooley, the amiable rebel who opened a record shop in the heart of the city at the height of the Troubles, and went on to become Belfast's 'godfather of punk', made for a great film.
Under the sure-handed direction of Des Kennedy, writers Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson have adapted their screenplay for the stage with panache.
Performed on an almost barren stage, where the shop's life-size cut-out of Elvis stands beside a set of shutters, the story takes us back to a bruised and battered Belfast with invisible borders between its no-go areas.
The tiny store at the heart of it all, ironically named Good Vibrations, would become the focal point for Belfast's burgeoning punk scene, where young people from the city's "septic streets" found harmony through discord.
Hooley stamped Northern Ireland on the international music map before the world turned, casting him into the shadows once again.
His rags-to-riches tale is told by a hugely talented cast who perform musical numbers throughout the show. They're headed by a terrific Aaron McCusker as the shambolic, charismatic Hooley, whose hippy ideals of love and peace sit uneasily alongside his desire for the big time, and he leaves in his wake a trail of casualties, including his endlessly patient wife, Ruth (Niamh Perry).
A special mention for Sean Kearns, who provides an anchor for the more exuberant members of the cast in his roles as Terri's father, an RUC officer and John Peel. It's a delight to see him back on the Lyric stage.
A first half crammed with music leads us, almost teasingly, to Terri's first encounter with a young band from Derry.
The pace dips a little in the second half as his kingdom begins to crumble, but the action goes full throttle for the show's climax. The rafters rattle to the chords of Alternative Ulster. The audience shakes dust off its memories of those teenage dreams. Joy is unconfined.