As summer inches closer, and Valentine’s chocolates weigh heavy on the mind, a trip to Broughton Leisure Centre to immerse yourself in Dante Die’s nostalgia tinged show could be just what the doctor ordered. It is such a prescription that has led Lisa to cross the threshold of the gym, donning lycra and legwarmers as she grapples with the new challenges she faces. For lifeguard Chris -the leisure centre’s longest serving member of staff- it’s the possibility of emulating the film characters and film stars that he idolises, and saving someone, that brings him to work.

The audience are guided through the intersecting stories by a trio of Musical Angels (George Hicks, Eleanor Isherwood and Sophie Gunn, decked out in sequins and new-wave makeup) who perform stripped back versions of eighties classics accompanied by a keytar and ukulele. These musical moments are beautifully understated (managing to avoid the clichéd echoes of John Lewis adverts), making the most of the venues acoustics and blending harmonically. These numbers are so well known to us that the evocative arrangements are able to suggest the power chords and synth beats, and the addition of Gunn’s BSL interpretation adds a further layer.

Andrew Muir’s script is, for the most part, beautifully nuanced with some lovely comedic moments. Fiona Watson and DK Ugonna as our central protagonists are captivating drawing the audience into their stories and inspiring tears of laughter and sadness. They are ably supported by a community cast who populate the leisure centre attending an aerobics class (the staple of the eighties health boom!), taking a dip in the pool, and providing extra oomph for the show’s final big splash. The core ensemble brings a host of diverse and believable characters to life from Elly Hayton’s leopard print wearing gossip Debs to Vinny Dugdale’s quietly assured Dan.

Director Daphna Attias has combined all of the elements of this innovative production with flair (evidently ably supported by Anna Richmond and Fiona Watson) and its smooth running attests to the hard work and thought that has gone into the show.

Take On Me is a heart-warming exploration and celebration of the diverse communities of people who populate leisure centres across the country striving to become better versions of themselves and finding one another along the way.

Reviewer: Clare Chandler

Reviewed: 15th February 2019

North West End Rating: ★★★★