"I turned sheet-white when I spoke to Pete Townshend"

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 7 11:11:17 UTC 2009

Also from the Nottingham Evening Post:

"I turned sheet-white when I spoke to Pete Townshend"
Friday, August 07, 2009, 10:17
Quadrophenia comes to the Royal Concert Hall next week, with four blokes playing the lead role of Jimmy. A confused JENNIFER SCOTT speaks to one of them, Ryan O' Donnell

IT'S based on one of the Who's classic albums and has been a rock concert and an iconic film, before arriving back on the stage in theatrical form. Quadrophenia comes to Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall on Tuesday and while the plot may be recognisable from the film, the format couldn't be more different.

In the film, lead character Jimmy was played by Phil Daniels. In the stage adaptation, he's played by Ryan O'Donnell, Jack Roth, George Maguire and Rob Kendrick.

Yes, four actors who, sometimes, are on stage all at once.

As you may have gathered, this is no straightforward adaptation. 

The character of Jimmy has been divided into romantic, lunatic, tough guy and hypocrite, each played by a different actor.

The idea is, as the Who's chief songwriter, Pete Townshend, has declared, to put the "quad" into Quadrophenia – a play on words of the personality-splitting disorder schizophrenia.

Understandably though, it can be a difficult one for audiences to follow.

"We did have to strip it down a bit to simplify the story. Certain members of the audience weren't grasping we were supposed to be one person, as opposed to four," says Ryan O'Donnell, who is playing "Romantic Jimmy".

You can't blame them, can you?

"We all used to wear different clothes but now we have identical costumes and identical haircuts.
"It was the director and writer's decision to divide the role into four. It would probably be much easier for the audience but probably not so much fun."

The plot of Quadrophenia is based on Townshend's short story, which appeared in the inlay of the classic album.

It tells the story of Jimmy, a disaffected, style-conscious teen in Mod-era London who sets off for Brighton in a trip that will change his life.

However, while the film incorporates some of the Who's songs as background music, in the stage version the entire score is sung from start to finish.

"There's no dialogue in the show and the action darts back and forth. It's quite a challenge," says Ryan.

During rehearsals, Townshend dropped by. He has given the show his blessing and wanted to see how it was coming on.

"It was a real boost for the cast to see him," recalls Ryan.

"I turned sheet-white when I first spoke to him! But he's a lovely guy. We haven't seen him since the opening week, but he thought it was fantastic."

Ryan attended the Royal Welsh College where, by coincidence, is where the staging of Quadrophenia was developed.

It was originally intended as a vehicle for final-year students but was then adopted as a professional production.

"It was the year after I left, unfortunately, but some of my friends were in it, so I went to see it," says Ryan, 26, of that first production. "It completely gripped me and I felt so disappointed I hadn't been involved in it."

Missing out on the college show made Ryan all the more glad when he was picked for the six-month pro tour, which includes a date in Brighton.

A life-long Who fan, Ryan has also appeared in a version of Romeo and Juliet for the Royal Shakespeare Company and was in Tracy Beaker at Nottingham Playhouse.

His love of the Who was passed down by his parents.

"My mum and dad are pretty into the Who and they're coming to see me next week," he says. "They can't wait!"

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!


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