Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Jono, back in South Wales


Johnny Tudor , South Wales Valleys , December 14, 2020
PEG'S BOYS by Johnny Tudor Encouraged by the irascible Peg, Jono and his friends get up to some amazing tricks in this compelling novel by Johnny Tudor.

There is a touch of autobiography to this sparkling tale. Johnny Tudor’s ‘day job’, though it takes place in the evenings, like ‘Jono’ in the book is that of an entertainer; as well as being an actor he is a fine singer and his tap dancing is fantastic and great to see. But that all happens later in the story. Again, like Jono his dad accompanied him on the piano.

Peg’s Boys is a warm hearted and beautifully written account with the ‘eccentric’ Peg at the heart of it. We are in Cwm Teg, South Wales in the nineteen fifties. By this time, we are told the blackened coal tips have been covered over with grass that made them into a great playgrounds.

Up there, with his bike Jono had met young Pip with his gambo, a roughly made street cart. This was a poor swap for a bike ride but things worked out well and the boys became life long friends. Tudor brings all his gauche young men vividly to life and we enjoy their adventures with them.

Jono first meets the amazing Peg as she answers the door when he arrives for Pip’s birthday party. I couldn’t sum her up any better than Tudor does. “She was wearing a glitzy dress of iridescent peacock colours of green and blue, her shock of black hair sparkled with glitter dust.” She continues to sparkle all through the story.

It wasn’t the usual young boy’s birthday party spread either. “The table had been laid with knife, fork and spoon, cigarette and a glass of wine.” Because of, or despite all this, the boys all had a great time. Peg saw to that.

Tudor has a great skill in breathing life into every scene. You can smell the beer down The Colliers Arms with Liberace-Humphries at the piano. Back at Peg’s where she sat flaked out with an empty whisky bottle by her side, her husband Bunny, a former drummer in a band where she was the singer was well able to sort those things out. Despite her many failings Tudor seems to like Peg giving her heart a good touch of warmth.

The boys Pip and Frankie with Jono now become the core of the story and we follow them on their many adventures. Tudor’s writing takes us right into the middle of them.

He brings each period in their development out very clearly and often gives it that uncanny, fascinating live touch of Tudor good humour.

With both fun and at times alarm we follow the boys into adulthood, enjoying the difficulties they find when girls come on the scene! Some stay. They go on to live out fascinating lives told with great zest and jollification.

We go with them, enjoying every minute of the journey. As the stories draw to a close we learn, well I don’t want to give the ending away, but I can assure you that Tudor describes the details of all their achievements with the vitality that runs through all his writing.

Published by SilverWood Books ltd.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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