Theatre Review - Just for One Day

Craige Els in Just For One Day [Manuel Harlan]

On Saturday 13 July 1985 the live aid concerts united 1.5 billion people globally to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief.

Just for One Day offers a blast of 80s nostalgia. John O’Farrell’s jukebox musical features the songs of numerous artists from Elton John and David Bowie to the Beatles and Queen.

In Luke Sheppard’s energising production, we follow the recording and sale of the Band Aid single, Do They Know It’s Christmas, and the attempts of Bob Geldof (Craige Els), Midge Ure (Jack Shalloo) and Harvey Goldsmith (Joel Montague) to persuade the rock celebrities of the time to participate in a live benefit concert.

Light relief comes in Geldof’s standoffs with Margaret Thatcher (Julie Atherton) after the Tory government insisted on charging the standard 15% sales tax on the money they’d raised.

Some may take exception to the focus on Geldof, eclipsing Ure, as the driving force behind Band Aid and pulling off two live concerts across two continents.

O’Farrell does fleetingly attempt to address the detractors with Amara (Abiona Omonua) in Ethiopia bluntly educating Geldof as to the reasons aid isn’t getting through to those who need it.

Looking back, another character Jemma (Naomi Katiyo) brings up white saviourism and remarks on the prevalence of “old white guys taking a day off from snorting cocaine to save Africa”.

O’Farrell book is admittedly thin, but the music saves the show. It’s easy to be won over by the standout band and terrific ensemble. Matthew Brind’s musical arrangements and orchestration, aided by Ebony Molina’s choreography are, quite simply, sensational.  

It’s had mixed reviews but Just for One Day is full of heart and it’s exhilarating to revisit that memorable summer’s day in 1985. 

10 percent of ticket sales will be donated to The Band Aid Charitable Trust.

To March 30

Originally published by Westminster Extra