Theatre review: Good Vibrations as intense and big-hearted as Terri Hooley himself

Good Vibrations at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast 


The story of Terri Hooley

Lyric Theatre


THE Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music asked, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Writers Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson faced a similar conundrum when trying to encapsulate the mercurial whirlwind that is Terri Hooley. They succeeded, as you can see for yourself in the Lyric Theatre production Good Vibrations.

Hooley’s life story has been told on film, in his book and now on the stage – and what a night Wednesday's opening night was. Of course, his fans were out in force but there were many Lyric regulars who admitted losing their hearts to this fascinating character played so well by a swaggering, overcoat-wearing Aaron McCusker with the same intensity and radical verve as his alter ego who was sitting in the audience.

The story charts the life of Terri – at one time he was Terry with a ‘y’ but when the rebel instincts came out and he decided to take on the world he became Terri. It also reflected the fact that when he was only six a game of bows and arrows resulted in him losing his left eye; with dark humour he says the ‘i’ was appropriate.

The show takes us from small but determined beginning, the opening of Good Vibrations record shop, DJ-ing in the Harp Bar, his interest in local bands and how he became convinced that home-grown musicians were second to none and was prepared to fight for them.

Good Vibrations at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast 

He became a promoter, was responsible for bands like Stiff Little Fingers and The Outcasts (still touring to this day) and my heart turned over when legendary John Peel (Sean Kearns) played Teenage Kicks on Radio One and turned up at the Ulster Hall gig where 2,000 boys and girls discovered what it meant to be a punk.

A measure of the man, Terri gave out so many free passes that the event failed to make any money.

Like the man himself, this show is intense in its will to succeed, chaotic at times – a cast of singing punks playing guitars and drums live on stage, a steel grille which is used effectively as the barrier between the shop and the troubles of Belfast, at other times raised to reveal the bands head-banging and blasting out their music.

It is also essential to the scene where Terri is beaten up and the crashing of his body against the metal hurt.

Good Vibrations at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast 

Tender scenes with his wife Ruth (Niamh Perry) and his parents, (Kearns and Christina Nelson) and turbulent scenes with thugs and English promotors who won’t entertain him when he tries to interest them in his new prodigies.

Hooley is one of a kind. He opened up nightlife in Belfast in the 70s and young people came to his gigs. He said it didn’t matter if you had green hair or orange hair, it only mattered if you were a punk. “They were my heroes.”

This Godfather of punk is hero to a lot more people now that the family that is Good Vibrations is on the road again.

:: Until October 6; see

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